1. The unseen photographs of William Eggleston

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    Above Untitled (Rosa Eggleston, Memphis, Tennessee, 1971). (©William Eggleston/Eggleston Artistic Trust/Courtesy of Twin Palms).

    In his afterword to For Now, film-maker Michael Almereyda who directed William Eggleston in the Real World (2005), describes the collection of 88 images as, ‘a bouquet brought back from an archival jungle,’ these are not the iconic photographs of the banal so familiar of Eggleston’s oeuvre, but what Almereyda calls ‘the B-sides, the bootlegs, the unreleased tracks,’ they are the images that even the artist himself has largely forgotten. 

    In his year long survey of Eggleston’s archive, Almereyda looked at 35,000 previously unseen photographs, all produced during the last four decades, and favoured those that carried what he calls, ‘narrative implications, traces of a story that might exist, almost mockingly, just outside the picture frame.’ The majority of his selection, are photographs of people, an ‘inversion of Eggleston’s true ratio of populated to depopulated images, and most of those depicted are family or close friends, offering in For Now, a volume that ‘comes close to being a family album,’ suggests Eggleston.

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    Above Untitled (Myrtle Boykin, Morton, Mississippi, early 1970s). (©William Eggleston/Eggleston Artistic Trust/Courtesy of Twin Palms).

    Looking at these photographs, one is acutely aware of an offhand intimacy, that forms what Almereyda refers to as a binding agent, ‘The emotional temperature is at once tender and aloof, extending to pictures of strangers in parking lots and suburban yards, and this can seem aligned with Eggleston’s enduring fascination with frayed commercial spaces, cars, signs, cracked pavement, light bulbs, bricks, clouds; with rural porches, phone poles, pegboard, broken fences, spilled trash, ditches, puddles, architectural gaps and divides — with the spaces between the spaces, the mundane, the makeshift, all the fragmentary raw proofs of civilisation as a perishable human construction that nevertheless, provides subject matter for vivid and vibrant photographs.’

    Remarking upon Eggleston’s work, Lloyd Fonvielle, who first met the photographer in 1971, says in 100 years from now, 500 years from now, when people want to know what America in my lifetime looked like, what it felt like to inhabit America then, ‘they will have Bill’s work to inform them of these things. We can say to those future generations that his testimony has been in all respects faithful and true.’

    For Now is published by Twin Palms.

    Further reading William Eggleston: Before Colour.

Notes

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