To me it seems that the pictures reproduced here are about the photographer’s home, about his place, in both important meanings of that word.
—John Szarkowski, Introduction
to William Eggleston’s Guide
I’m sure I’m wrong about him, but it’s always seemed like slumming to me, those
_____lovely color photographs—quickly seen
shots of broken grave monuments and all manner of sun-scoured refuse, peeling
_____billboards, delicately corroding
service station signs and boxcars parked on the siding, copper-tipped clouds
_____against an indifferent sky—process prints
as lurid as circus posters. I wish they didn’t seem so damn familiar. All of life is
_____slumming, even if you don’t believe
in anything more than method: take just one shot of each view, but condition
_____your eye to capture countless views.
Everyone in Memphis can tell you Eggleston’s been barred from the Lamplighter
_____Lounge, one of those beer joints
over on Madison. You know the kind of place—fifty-cent pool table, Rock-ola
_____jukebox stuffed with Otis Redding sides,
a Pabst Blue Ribbon clock running fifteen minutes fast. How is your behavior so
_____bad you can’t darken the door
of a dive like that? Even a town as rough as this one should be handled with
_____manners and grace. There’s something to look at
in the saddest room. Beauty is best when it’s accidental. I was brought up to act
_____polite, and maybe I’m too fearful of getting barred
from the smoky rooms of Memphis, but it breaks my heart to be shut out of even
_____the shabbiest place. How empty
if the only thing left to look at is your own looking in this world so mysteriously
_____encoded into shape and color, where even a tawdry streetscape
is built of parts we’ve only happened upon and had no hand in making. Look at
_____the assurance of beautiful things, how they pose
and preen and covet our looking. Such need is what renders a thing uncomely. We
_____should seek the repose of the unlooked at
because nothing’s ever beautiful that’s not in some measure caught unawares.
_____And rust, no matter what else it is, is red.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.