Dog Days, Bogotá

When Minnesota photographer Alec Soth and his wife adopted their daughter, Carmen Laura, five years ago, they spent two months in Bogotá, Colombia, as the paperwork was processed by the courts. When they left, they brought with them two books. One was literal: Carmen's biological mother had created a collection of poems, letters and pictures for her baby. She inscribed it: "I hope that the hardness of the world will not hurt your sensitivity. When I think about you I hope that your life is full of beautiful things." The other, which wouldn't be published til much later, took those words as its mission. It contained photos Soth shot during that trip so his daughter could know her birth culture.

Magnum blogs recently ran and interview between Soth and his intern, Carrie Thompson, on the book, Dog Days, Bogotá. Straightforward, yet poetic -- like Alec's shots -- here's an excerpt:

CT: Tell me about the dogs, how did they become so important?

AS: I was aware of the street kids in Bogotá. I mean, it is a hard thing to ignore, but I was especially attuned to it because of the adoption experience. But I was uncomfortable photographing these kids. So I photographed street-dogs instead. I guess they were a stand-in for the kids.

CT: So do the dogs have different types of personalities in your eyes - like young street children?

AS: Great question. In a way, this gets at why I was uncomfortable photographing the kids. I mean, I wasn't seeing them as individuals; I was generalizing them as a group. I don't like doing that. The dogs are all a little different, but I'm using them largely as an idea.

CT: It seems like you are searching for something in these images, was there something you were looking for? [...]

AS: Yeah, I feel like I was looking for something...I'm just not sure what it was. But, of course, it all has to do with my daughter. Since we weren't given too much information about her background, the whole city became charged with her presence. I guess I was looking for signs of her and her background.

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