William Eggleston

William Eggleston

This text is drawn from his book The Democratic Forest.
Some OCR Glitches may be present.

I was having dinner with some friends, writers from around Oxford, or maybe at the bar of the Holiday Inn, [and] someone said, “What have you been photographing here today, Eggleston?”

“Well, I’ve been photographing democratically,” I replied.

“But what have you been taking pictures off”

“I’ve been outdoors, nowhere, in nothing.”

“What do you mean?”

Well, just woods and dirt, a little asphalt here and there.”

I was treating things democratically, which of course didn’t mean a thing to the people I was talking to. I already had different, massive series. I had been to Berlin and to Pittsburgh and completed huge bodies of work. From that moment everything from the boxes of thousands of prints made cohesive sense for the first time. All the work from this period from 1983 to 1986 was unified by the democracy. Friends would ask what I was doing and I would tell them that I was working on a project with several thousand prints. They would laugh but I would be dead serious. At least I had found a friend in that title, The Democratic Forest, that would look over me. It was not much different from Cartier-Bresson bringing the whole world from America to China to The Decisive Moment.

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While I’m not terribly enamored with some of Egelstons individual works I am an admirer of his mode of working – he consciously builds enormous archives of images with which to work in creating his bodies of work, I’m more inclined towards editing down than he is, but I understand his point when he puts hundreds or even thousands of prints together to create a body, and I’m intrigued by how he uses the camera, many of his photographs are almost like a glance at the subject matter rather than a gaze, or even stare like many other photographers who are far more ‘picky with what they select to photograph – Eggelston seems to have sidestepped this element which so many people get unnecessarily caught up in.