Alec Soth b. 1969
Glass Jars (2009)
Glass Jars is the first, a really dark piece about the Mohler family, in which children supposedly buried their traumatic secrets about abuse in glass jars in their yard. And then in 2009, the perpetrators, five men from one family, were charged. In the video you go to Missouri, where the children are from, you call up the local police station, and ask for details about these glass jars. You say you are a journalist. I was thinking, “Alec’s lying there.” And then I thought, “No, he is a photojournalist.” It’s a strange piece because you know what you’re doing when you make that phone call, and you’re very clearly displaying a tabloidesque curiosity that feels slightly tawdry. And I think you’re aware of that, right?

AS:This is part of me dismantling my career. [laughs] No, it is. I talk a lot about these ethical issues about using people, right? It’s a very common question for me: do I get permission when I take people’s pictures? And I say, “Yes,” and I send them a copy of the picture and they usually sign a release, and that’s a way of getting rid of guilt. Because early on, I didn’t do that. I would sometimes say I would send someone a picture and I wouldn’t, and I had a lot of built-up guilt. So I tried to be ethically better about this. Then, over the last year, I’ve thrown my ethics out the window in some ways. I was always a believer in being honest about what I was doing. In Glass Jars, I am lying. I’m not going to say to the guy, “I’m an artist and I’m experimenting with this new form.” I was lying.