“It’s hard for me to describe the fascination that William Eggleston’s photographs exert on me. More than twenty years ago, I bought William Eggleston’s Guide, the catalogue of his solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1976.”
“Eggleston was in New York during the last week in October for the opening of a new exhibition of his work at the Zwirner gallery that runs through December 17. All of the nearly 50 images in the show were taken in the ’80s as part of a mammoth series called The Democratic Forest, which in its entirety includes some 12,000 images. But in the Zwirner show, for the first time, many of the images have been reproduced on a giant scale, some of them five feet across. Staring at them on opening night (and it is a measure of how Eggleston is idolized, particularly by the young, that hundreds of people braved a truly filthy rain to attend the opening), I thought, when you make a picture that big, there is no room for error, no place for a photographer to hide. And in this case, no need. You could put these pictures on a billboard, and they would lose none of their integrity.”
I’m linking today to an essay on William Eggelston called The Tender-Cruel Camera written by Thomas Weski. Here’s an excerpt.
The choice of subject matter seemed to some critics to be totally indiscriminate, as though William Eggleston has applied no criteria at all. ‘Eggleston’s photographs often seem to have been taken not by a photographer but by a motorized camera swinging around the photographer’s head on a string. Whatever happens to be in front of the lens when the shutter was tripped got photographed. Whatever was not, did not.’ But even this negatively meant criticism reveals a further important aspect of Eggleston’s work, namely his democratic approach to the subject matter. Eggleston speaks again and again of the ‘democratic camera’ which considers every object worthy of depiction. Naturally, this seemingly impersonal way of seeing things makes no distinction between ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’. In other words, William Eggleston does not operate with the usual visual hierarchies, but rather accepts those motifs which illustrate his concept correctly.