Not so long ago, I was wandering around Wyoming and happened upon a scene that looked familiar to me. Soon I realized that I had randomly come across the exact same school bus pictured in Alec Soth’s Broken Manual.
Naturally, I stopped to check it out. The horse in Alec’s photo wasn’t around, but its shit was there and still fresh, so I imagined the owner out riding the plain. I knocked on the bus door and there was no answer of course, but I peeked inside and saw that the bus had been pretty well converted for living – a stove and kitchen supplies, curtains hung, bedroom in the back, drawers, and so on. Behind the bus I found a bunch of broken glass, piles of beer cans, a fire pit, and some old barrels full of gunshot holes.
By poking around this estate, I was in a sense stepping into a photo and exploring it, something I tend to want to do when looking at good photography. Often I wonder what’s beyond the edges of the frame, what’s behind and beside the photographer that viewers don’t see, what half-truths are being told, etc. In this case, there was just a desolate highway and a lot of nothing. The setting was almost eerie, and it was kind of impressive how well the real-life mood of the location fit Broken Manual’s narrative.
I think this is a pretty uncommon occurrence. I’d bet that more often than not, Alec probably bends reality to fit the fiction he wants to create. I’ve been to other sites of well-known photographs and movies and have been disappointed. Anyway, I thought it’d be cool to share my thoughts and iPhone pic, seen second after Alec’s exquisite 8x10 shot.