Monday, 17 January 2011

Bite 39: William Eggleston - Southern Environs of Memphis, 1969-70

Southern Environs of Memphis, from William Eggleston's Guide, 1976
"Eggleston's photographs look like they were taken by a Martian who lost the ticket for his flight home and ended up working at a gun shop in a small town near Memphis. On the weekends he searches for that lost ticket - it must be somewhere - with a haphazard thoroughness that confounds established methods of investigation."
                                                - Geoff Dyer, The Eternal Moment
There is something altogether sinister about William Eggleston's suburbia. Exactly centred in the frame, headlights for eyes, the car sits ominously by the curb of a wide street in Memphis. A cloudy Southern winter sky hovers above.

The beauty of Eggleston's work, and particularly his ground-breaking book William Eggleston's Guide (a guide to what?), is the seeming randomness of his eye. 

He confounds. It is impossible to fully grasp his aim or even overall message; yet his work is coherent in an indescribable way - like classical music as opposed to Pop.

The Guide is nothing short of a symphony, and can claim to be the first such in colour in the history of photography. Focusing on 'banal' details of suburban American life, Eggleston creates a stillness, a tone of melancholic meditation, that continues to reward the seeking, returning reader time and time again.