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William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008

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Elviss Graceland, a freezer stuffed with food, a Gulf gasoline sign standing in a deserted rural landscapethese are only a few of the iconic images captured by the democratic camera of photographer William Eggleston. Not only has he drawn upon images so telling of American culture, he has produced them with an intensity and balance of color that have helped elevate the Elvis’s Graceland, a freezer stuffed with food, a Gulf gasoline sign standing in a deserted rural landscape—these are only a few of the iconic images captured by the “democratic camera” of photographer William Eggleston. Not only has he drawn upon images so telling of American culture, he has produced them with an intensity and balance of color that have helped elevate the entire field of color photography to a fine art, especially since his 1976 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.   Drawing together Eggleston’s famous and lesser-known works, this lavishly illustrated catalogue is the first to examine both his photography and videos. Of particular relevance are his black-and-white images from the late 1950s and 1960s, which helped shape his color photography, as well as the relationship between his provocative video recordings of 1970s Memphis nightlife and his later work. Included are reproductions of newly restored prints, executed specifically for the exhibition.   Filled with new and challenging contributions to scholarship and accompanying the first major U.S. survey of his work, this catalogue will prove the standard reference for Eggleston’s photographs for years to come.  


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Elviss Graceland, a freezer stuffed with food, a Gulf gasoline sign standing in a deserted rural landscapethese are only a few of the iconic images captured by the democratic camera of photographer William Eggleston. Not only has he drawn upon images so telling of American culture, he has produced them with an intensity and balance of color that have helped elevate the Elvis’s Graceland, a freezer stuffed with food, a Gulf gasoline sign standing in a deserted rural landscape—these are only a few of the iconic images captured by the “democratic camera” of photographer William Eggleston. Not only has he drawn upon images so telling of American culture, he has produced them with an intensity and balance of color that have helped elevate the entire field of color photography to a fine art, especially since his 1976 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.   Drawing together Eggleston’s famous and lesser-known works, this lavishly illustrated catalogue is the first to examine both his photography and videos. Of particular relevance are his black-and-white images from the late 1950s and 1960s, which helped shape his color photography, as well as the relationship between his provocative video recordings of 1970s Memphis nightlife and his later work. Included are reproductions of newly restored prints, executed specifically for the exhibition.   Filled with new and challenging contributions to scholarship and accompanying the first major U.S. survey of his work, this catalogue will prove the standard reference for Eggleston’s photographs for years to come.  

30 review for William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Jackson

    Career-spanning overview of Eggleston's work with helpful essays that outline his life and influences. It also devotes space to his important video of nighttime southern debauchery "Stranded in Canton." Docked a star because it feels a bit like a random greatest hits compared with the cohesion of his other books.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Delightful, a treat for the eyes. Thought-provoking images from common ordinary life - but quirky.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kay

    This is what I would call a 'coffee table' book with mostly color plates of William Eggleston's photography. Some of his pictures I really liked but others didn't impress me. There are some dry articles about his work and life and apparently why he is so important as a photographer. He did breakthrough with getting color photography respected as an art although there was much criticism at the time of his first museum exhibit. The 'democratic' references to his pictures mean that he insists that This is what I would call a 'coffee table' book with mostly color plates of William Eggleston's photography. Some of his pictures I really liked but others didn't impress me. There are some dry articles about his work and life and apparently why he is so important as a photographer. He did breakthrough with getting color photography respected as an art although there was much criticism at the time of his first museum exhibit. The 'democratic' references to his pictures mean that he insists that his pictures do not emphasize any aspect over any others. I think this is indeed his strength is many of his pictures of the 'ordinary' in the American south. The articles also discussed an experimental film he made titled Stranded in Canton. It seems to be on YouTube but at this point in my life, I think I've had enough of seemingly pointless experimental films. (Really one of the participants sticks a beer bottle up his butt--just because it's JackAss doesn't mean it's art.) I do wish my library had more of his works but alas this is the only book in the collection. Perhaps another time I will see if I can get more through interlibrary loans.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John

    A great overview of Eggleston, who was a pioneer of color photography. There are several essays to accompany the photos, some great, some not so great. In a couple there is a compelling argument for Eggleston as a pop artist rather than a Southern Gothic artist or regionalist of some stripe. The insistence that any subject is as good as another, that no photo could be favored or the others he took, the due praise given to Cartier-Bresson, Frank & Winogrand, these all bolster the case for the A great overview of Eggleston, who was a pioneer of color photography. There are several essays to accompany the photos, some great, some not so great. In a couple there is a compelling argument for Eggleston as a pop artist rather than a Southern Gothic artist or regionalist of some stripe. The insistence that any subject is as good as another, that no photo could be favored or the others he took, the due praise given to Cartier-Bresson, Frank & Winogrand, these all bolster the case for the "democratic forest." Still, there are some shots in here that have become famous. There are some shots that have become familiar from repetition. Some are so startling and some so perfect, that it is hard to wholeheartedly agree. There is grumbling in other reviews about the paragraphs given to the video work, which is hard to appreciate as silent stills, but sometimes startling and sometimes perfect when you are stranded in canton.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adrian

    Eggleston was among the first photographers of urban street photography (for lack of a better tag) to use colour film in his work. This volume features over 200 plates of his work of ordinary objects shot from odd angles. I really enjoyed about a third of them and while I don't think he's top rank for me he does deserve credit for branching out into colour film when others wouldn't. The essay at the front on Eggleston's life is interesting too.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tosh

    The great American Southern Goth Photographer. This is a catalogue to a retrospective that just took place, and it's a superb collection of his images from the beginning to the current. Eggleston is a Southern dandy, who has an incredible eye to capture the world around him. Essential photo book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    The photos are unquestionably 5 stars. This book gets a 4 due to a mixed bag of essays, curatorial choices, and making much too big of a stink about the video work. Still, a nice starting point for folks who have Wm Eggleston's Guide but aren't familiar with his other books.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Barry

    You can read my review of the exhibitiion at

  9. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robert

  11. 5 out of 5

    Anders

  12. 4 out of 5

    William

  13. 5 out of 5

    Martin Bassani

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul Elliott

  15. 4 out of 5

    Julie

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark

  17. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lola

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lennie

    Outstanding

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erick Wessels

  21. 5 out of 5

    Balaclava Nine

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andy Peterson

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kelley Tackett

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

  25. 4 out of 5

    Brad

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sai Deep

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kat

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ramanan Sivaranjan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Addy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Still

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