Review by Wayne Swanson •
“Where are we going?”
“I wanted to show you nothing.”
Coming from most people, that explanation would hardly seem appealing. But William Eggleston is not most people. “Nothing” has earned him his place as a seminal figure in modern fine art photography. When he told Harmony Korine and Juergen Teller where they were headed, the two photographers were anxious to see nothing with him.
Ten years ago, Korine, Teller, Eggleston, and his son Winston took a road trip from Memphis to Mississippi. As Teller tells it, “Bill wanted to show us the house he grew up in and drive around in this empty vast land. Miles and miles of dead barren cotton wool land, depressing countryside and abandoned towns.” In other words, nothing. But also the Egglestonian mother lode. The result is William Eggleston 414, Korine and Juergen’s chance to channel the singular aesthetic of Eggleston, with the master as tour guide and principal subject.
Korine and Teller certainly have the right credentials for the job. Korine is a film director, writer, artist, and photographer known for embracing dark humor and absurdism. Teller is a fine art and fashion photographer known for embracing the idiosyncrasies of his subjects and the spontaneity of the moment. They share with Eggleston a love of banal subject matter, deadpan presentation, off-beat compositions and, of course, color!
They captured rusted cars and trucks, abandoned gas stations, drab motel rooms, eviscerated deer, evangelical households, strings of colored lights, old road sign, and people in cars, all in in Eggleston’s trademark color palette. There are also snapshots of Eggleston, always impeccably dressed, holding court in cars, diners and motel rooms (the title refers to the room number of one of them), and of his son looking a bit like a fish out of water with this band of photographers. There must have been some fascinating conversations and shared experiences on this road trip, but one-paragraph introductions from Korine and Teller are the only text in the book. Maybe that’s another project.
The photos are all by either Korine or Teller, but who took what is not identified. They both effectively emulate the Eggleston way of seeing, with slightly muted color and rectangular framing. Perhaps the compositions are a bit looser than Eggleston’s shots of the same territory in such books as William Eggleston’s Guide.
Eggleston’s celebration of the banal and mundane can be an acquired taste. But admirers will recognize Korine’s and Teller’s affection for the man and his way of seeing.
Previously reviewed on PhotoBook Journal is Juergen Teller’s collaboration with Nobuyoshi Araki, Leben und Tod.
William Eggleston 414, Harmony Korine and Juergen Teller
Publisher: Steidl (Göttingen, Germany), copyright 2020
Introduction: Harmony Korine, Juergen Teller
Hardcover book, sewn binding, four-color lithography, 121 images, 144 pages, 11.25 x 8.25 inches, printed in Germany
Photobook designer: Juergen Teller
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