Oddly, I have only just recently purchased William Eggleston’s Guide, the seminal book of colour photographs published, under the guiding hand of John Szarkowski, by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Odd because on the one hand it is such an important work and a generally accepted essential addition to the library of anyone interested in photography that it would seem strange to only now acquire it. It is, after all, one of the essentials of the canon as it where. Actually, if one merely intends to have very few books on photography, it would still be deemed essential to that limited set.
Odd on the other hand because I am a modest fan of his work, and thus it would seem strange here too not to have sooner acquired the book.
Anyway, my new copy arrived about a month or so ago. In the time I’ve been in procession of it, I’ve read Szarkowski’s forward and looked through the book several times, both at leisure and in short intense bursts.
The wonders of the internaught mean I am already familiar with many of the photographs within, and indeed, very familiar with some of them. Despite this, the book brings two particular delights. The first is photos I am not familiar with and the second, much more importantly, is that the physicality of the book means I can enjoy the photos as actual objects. This is something I feel strongly about and passionately believe in – the manifestation of the photograph as an object, as a real thing.
The book is a nice size, comfortable to hold and quite nicely made (my daughter is quite take by the embroidered cloth that extends slightly from each end of the spine). Despite being easily handled, the photos are not too small to be enjoyed, and that is an important point. It could in fact be argued that the photos would benefit from being a tad larger. I’ve seen some of Egglestons photos in exhibition twice now, and they do seem to carry an extra weight seen larger. On tuther hand, that can be seen in most people’s work up to at least modest enlargement, if not always beyond. All in all, I find the balance between hold-ability and view-ability to be well judged.
So, how about the photos themselves? I just committed several typos in that last sentence in multiple places and was auto corrected by iOS to ‘how snout the photos hem elves.’ And you know what, that’s about the best description I can actually give. Because, Eggleston’s photos defy description. Many have tried, with varying degrees of success, but all have fallen short. I most certainly would too, should I be so presumptuous as to try. I think I can do no better than just to say Eggleston’s photos are snout hem elves.
So pleased I bought this book. There’s a photo (with ironically & perversely adulterated colour via a heavy VSCO hand).
Typed with a little late 60s help from the Stooges.