Texts by Walter Hopes and Thomas Weski
"I had this notion of what I called a democratic way of looking around, that nothing was more or less important," William Eggleston once said. This radical attitude guided his ground-breaking work in color photography, work that has prefigured many recent developments in art and photography. Los Alamos presents a series of photographs that has never before been shown, yet it contains a blueprint of Eggleston's aesthetics, his subtle use of subdued color hues, the casual elegance of his trenchant observations of the mysteries of the mundane. The photographs in Los Alamos were shot in Eggleston's native Memphis and on countless road trips across the American South from 1964 to 1968 and from 1972 to 1974. Initially, Eggleston wanted to create a vast compendium of more than 2000 photographs to be contained in 20 volumes; he wanted the viewer to look at the photographs the way one looks at the world. He eventually abandoned this project, and hardly any of the negatives were ever printed. Now, 30 years later, we finally get to see a selection of this encyclopedia of Southern everyday life and vernacular culture. It's a stunning discovery that makes the so-called snapshot photography of recent years pale in comparison. Eggleston's astonishingly timeless portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and photographs of buildings add up to a profound investigation of the world and our way of looking at it, a poetics of pleasures hidden in full view. They transcend the merely descriptive and uncover the universal encapsulated in the details and the detritus of life in a consumer culture.