Friday, December 12, 2008


Eggleston is a sly photographer.  Sly, not clever.  He figured out some things before he took his picture.  The composition is most usually balanced on some small strange detail.  The color keen and uncommon in a way that gets the emulsion to speak. Gelatin layers of sky, porcelain, kitchen wall.  White is seldom white.  Red is the color of blood in the vein.  The thick life of those colors.  

The subjects thrive, elected just an inch beyond whatever their reality may have been.  An inch. The brevity of that distance is enthralling. The difference is between walking and walking with a camera.  The picture you never knew you took of the kitchen sink. The postcard perfect field with the tarnished billboard.  His people and some of his places are arrested mid gesture, frozen for study.  They're easy to dismiss because it is so easy to imagine their next step.  

Somehow in his economy, Eggleston told us everything we needed to know about these people. The naked man just woken up on the couch beneath two shotguns with the ashtray at his feet. The redhead ecstatic in play dead on the lawn with a face full of sun and a genial set of buttons on her dress like a line of red jelly beans. The headless girl with the P. written on her hand in a blouse illustrated with kids at play, brown jumper and mini-skirt.  Does the P. on her hand give her age?  How much do we take for granted?  There's a level of specificity that denies type.  His people are people.  

Eggleston's pictures are especially effective in the city.  Easy pickins for porches, fields and southern bucolia.  I wonder if the pictures provoke a greater sense of the uncanny or nostalgia in Mississippi or if they simply thrive in New York because they seem transportive?   

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