Wil­liam Eg­gle­ston,

Pasatiempo - - The Spaces IN Between -

That ex­hi­bi­tion was or­ga­nized in 2007 by the Whit­ney Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art in as­so­ci­a­tion with Haus der Kunst, Mu­nich.

In the new book’s af­ter­word, Almereyda writes that Eg­gle­ston’s ap­par­ently or­di­nary re­al­i­ties “can be­come charged with an air of mys­tery and men­ace, a Hal­loween at­mos­phere leak­ing into ev­ery sea­son he records, a qual­ity of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and play con­verg­ing with a sense of un­ease, dread, the pos­si­bil­ity of may­hem.”

Another an­gle on Eg­gle­ston’s per­spec­tive is of­fered in For Now with Kris­tine McKenna’s re­count­ing of a 1994 con­ver­sa­tion with the pho­tog­ra­pher. “It’s true that a lot of my pic­tures have empty cen­ters, and that’s some­thing I prob­a­bly got from study­ing Ja­panese prints and Chi­nese paint­ings,” he said.

Also in the book is a piece by Lloyd Fon­vielle, who re­calls the time in 1971 when Eg­gle­ston gave him shel­ter for a time and showed him his pho­to­graphs — slide im­ages pro­jected on a wall. “Bill pho­tographed the spa­ces be­tween the things one would nor­mally find in­ter­est­ing to note,” Fon­vielle writes. “In a sense that’s the great­est gift art can give, show­ing us the things that are hid­ing in plain sight.”

About Eg­gle­ston’s process, Almereyda said, “He’s just a per­son in the world, you know? He just pho­tographed things that in­ter­ested him. He’s an open spirit, so he didn’t think any­thing was un­wor­thy of be­ing pho­tographed. He’s also vis­ually at­tuned. Like some­one who likes mu­sic is al­ways hum­ming, his eye is al­ways alert to what can be a pic­ture.”

Eg­gle­ston has also been a painter all his life. “I’m do­ing it all the time,” he told Pasatiempo. “I got started do­ing ab­stracts when I was about 5 years old.”

Eg­gle­ston never used to work on as­sign­ments for mag­a­zines. “That would in­volve tak­ing in­struc­tions, like do this or do that, and I’m not ac­cus­tomed to that and won’t do it,” he said. But his stature now per­mits do­ing oc­ca­sional mag­a­zine work with­out such di­rec­tives. Images from his most re­cent pho­to­graphic foray will ap­pear in a fu­ture is­sue of Van­ity Fair. The trip, sug­gested by the mag­a­zine, fo­cused on the renowned Trop­i­cana cabaret in Ha­vana, Cuba, as well as “var­i­ous other im­pli­ca­tions than the mun­dane world!” Eg­gle­ston has called his ap­proach “demo­cratic.”

“There’s a self-ev­i­dent qual­ity to the work; it just de­clares it­self as be­ing unique but also very ac­ces­si­ble in that he deals with ex­pe­ri­ences and re­al­ity that’s close at hand,” Almereyda said. “There is a whole school of land­scape and still-life paint­ing and a mode of po­etry that value ev­ery­day ob­jects, so he was sim­ply — some­times mod­estly and some­times am­bi­tiously — fol­low­ing a tra­di­tion that wasn’t con­spic­u­ous.

“He’s clas­si­cally trained, and he’s very knowl­edge­able about the his­tory of art, so it was not a ran­dom thing that he was do­ing when he was break­ing bound­aries. Com­pared to Ansel Adams, who was try­ing to make grand, soar­ing state­ments, Bill was be­ing much more hum­ble but equally pro­found.”

For the new book, Almereyda plumbed the ar­chives of the Eg­gle­ston Artis­tic Trust in Mem­phis for “the B-sides, the bootlegs, the un­re­leased tracks” peo­ple do not see in the ret­ro­spec­tive show Wil­liam Eg­gle­ston: Demo­cratic Cam­era — Pho­tographs and Video, 1961-2008. pic­tures in that part of the is­land, mostly the en­vi­rons of Ha­vana,” he said.

One of the pho­tog­ra­pher’s port­fo­lios, made be­tween 1964 and 1974, is ti­tled Los Alamos, but he did not shoot in the New Mex­ico town. “He used Los Alamos as a metaphor, the idea of a pri­vate lab where you do in­tense re­search,” Almereyda said. “That’s kind of what he was do­ing on those road trips where he was ex­plor­ing and mak­ing an in­ven­tory of the Amer­i­can cul­tural land­scape.”

Re­gard­ing Eg­gle­ston’s many im­i­ta­tors, Almereyda tells us in the book that Viva, the Warhol su­per­star “who was Bill’s com­pan­ion in New York through much of the ’70s, coined a term for such pic­tures: Feg­gle­stons.”

“I was never re­ally par­tic­u­larly close to Andy,” Eg­gle­ston said dur­ing the in­ter­view. “I be­came close with a cou­ple peo­ple that were around what he called the Fac­tory and be­came par­tic­u­larly close with Viva, who was an ac­tress in some of Andy’s films. I just spent the day with her yes­ter­day. I wouldn’t call us ex-lovers, but we love each other very much, and when it’s pos­si­ble we get to­gether, but I’m thou­sands of miles away.”

He lives in Mem­phis. “Chiefly, yes,” Eg­gle­ston said, “but also in Paris and around the world.” “Wil­liam Eg­gle­ston: For Now” by Michael Almereyda is pub­lished by Twin Palms Pub­lish­ers, Santa Fe.

Clock­wise from top: Win­ston Eg­gle­ston, Ox­ford, Mis­sis­sippi, early 1980s; Henry Dog­grell and Elsie Burch, early 1980s; Lu­cia Burch, Mem­phis, Ten­nessee, early 1980s; pho­tos cour­tesy Twin Palms Pub­lish­ers

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