Following the publication of Chromes in 2011 and Los Alamos Revisited in 2012, Steidl's reassessment of Eggleston's career continues with the publication of The Democratic Forest, his most ambitious project. This ten-volume set containing more than 1,000 photographs is drawn from a body of 12,000 pictures made by Eggleston in the 1980s. Following an opening volume of work in Louisiana, the ensuing volumes cover Eggleston's travels from his familiar ground in Memphis and Tennessee out to Dallas, Pittsburgh, Miami and Boston, the pastures of Kentucky and as far as the Berlin Wall. The final volume leads the viewer back to the South of small towns, cotton fields, the Civil War battlefield of Shiloh and the home of Andrew Jackson in Tennessee.
The "democratic" in Eggleston's title refers to a democracy of vision, through which the most mundane subjects are represented with the same complexity and significance as the most elevated. This work has rarely been shown and only a fraction of the entire oeuvre has ever been published; the exhaustive editing process has taken over three years. This gorgeous set includes a new introduction by Mark Holborn and the republication of Eudora Welty's original essay on the work.
William Eggleston was born in 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee. He took his first black-and-white photographs at age 18. His first color work was shot in 1964 in color negative film, but in the late 60s he began to use color slides. Eggleston was the subject of a landmark solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1976.
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But to look at his photographs again, especially now, and even the ones you think you know well, is to induce a fresh vision. You stop being able to see the world the way you once did; you start seeing Egglestons everywhere. (Rebecca Bengal Vogue)
In his hands, the camera becomes a palpable, itinerant presence; the scope feels restless, filmic. Nothing was off limits, and nothing mattered more than anything else. The image of a child’s face―even the face of his own child―carried no more photographic weight than a rusted car door. That car door could be freighted with just as much feeling as one of the luminous large-format portraits: artistically, Eggleston approached and treated them the same. (Rebecca Bengal Vogue)
Taken as a whole, this enormous collection is kind of like bellying up to a luxurious buffet―it's delicious, and overwhelming, but worth the heartburn. (Mark Murrmann Mother Jones)
The images are democratic in the sense of how varied and inclusive they are. Eggleston shoots parked cars, flower vases, cemeteries, gas stations and piles of dirt, and each photograph in these long, glorious sequences (there are 10 volumes in all, with titles like “Pittsburgh,” “Berlin” and “The Pastoral”) merits its place. There are few photographers whose images I would wish to see more than a thousand of in a single sitting. Eggleston is easily in that class. (Teju Cole The New York Times Magazine)
The year’s major, massive photographic event... Whittled down to just 150 pictures in full, saturated Egglestonian color when it was published in 1989, the book now stretches to a vast expanse of images, most never before published, vividly illustrating his definition of what it means to photograph democratically―in other words, everything. (Rebecca Bengal Vogue)
As fresh as the present moment (John Gossage Photo-Eye Blog, Best of 2016)
One of America’s greatest living photographers...Eggleston’s sensitivity to light and color, and to a peculiarly American melancholy, links his pictures to the paintings of Edward Hopper; far from creating a flat hierarchy of images, he revels in the glorious specificity of each one. (The New Yorker)
William Eggleston is partial to impartiality. He professes to have no favorite photographs or subjects...his distinctive images float free of titles...What remains is hauntingly clear and vividly colored: the strangely obvious made obviously strange (Stephanie Murg The Line)
Expect trademark mastery of dappled light and keen yet gentle observations from the master of modern photography. (Amah-Rose Abrams Artnet)
These moments in Eggleston’s work offer a fitting crystallization of his work, and more broadly, the act of seeing itself. Letting light play such a strong hand in his pieces, each work underscores his ability to capture moments of visual harmony, where the viewer is equally aware of the world just beyond the lens, as they are in the elements shaping it, and the act of seeing it in turn. At each point, Eggleston’s own hand rarely seems to enter too explicitly into view, a note that emphasizes his mastery all the more loudly. (D. Creahon Arts Observer)
...a variegated portrait of the world in our time...to locate the extraordinary within the ordinary. (Malcolm Jones The Daily Beast)
...a phone handset resting ominously on an embroidered bedsheet, a child in overalls poring over a gun catalogue, and what looks like a vacant outdoor snack shack...overlooked if not for Eggleston’s beguiling ability to perfectly frame and capture an environment’s color, geometry, and light. (Art in America)
[The Democratic Forest] is not to be missed...Eggleston’s quest for the subtle truths of the ordinary―he has said that he is “at war with the obvious”―is apparent in his framing of local color and quotidian detail. (Prudence Peiffer Artforum)
It is as mesmerizing and fascinating and beautiful and infuriating and gratuitous and obscene and unresolved as the country it portrays, the country it makes us confront. (Joerg Colberg Cphmag.com)
More than any other project by Eggleston, these photographs deliver his aesthetic, which, as the title gives away, is also a philosophy of democracy: the power of the ordinary, the beauty of contingency, the aim of a universalist view... Steidl has been steadily working to put Eggleston in wider circulation, and this anthology is a cause for celebration. (Prudence Peiffer Bookforum)
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