The COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns around have pushed artists to find new ways to work, publish, and teach. Renowned photographer Alec Soth is posting “rambling talks” to his YouTube channel, and in this 42-minute talk, Soth slowly flips through photo books by photographer William Eggleston and discusses the work.
The talk is unscripted, and Soth spends the time sharing background, stories, and opinions while looking at the photos and editing decisions of each book.
While Soth flips through several books featuring Eggleston’s work, the talk gives special emphasis to the book The Democratic Forest.
“This is a book that has been stuck in my brain for 25 years,” Soth says. “It’s a book I think about all the time.”
William Eggleston is often referred to as “the godfather of color photography” for his role in helping color photos be seen as legitimate art. A collection of 36 of his prints sold at auction back in 2012 for a whopping $5.9 million, with $578,500 paid for one print of a photo of a tricycle.
Eggleston has published a large number of photo books over the course of his career. The Democratic Forest was published in 1989 and features 150 color photos showing the details of everyday life.
Eggleston portrays “obdurately ordinary objects with a candor and respect for place brought into focus by a subtle sense of decline,” Publishers Weekly says of the book. “Storefronts in East Tennessee, Mississippi parking lots and vehicles traveling through the great leveled spaces of Atlanta highways let us dwell in the familiar and mundane. These down-to-earth pictures tell their elegies in a muted voice, catching the eye with details: light and shade revive deteriorating brick and shape a roadside fruit stall and van into muscular bulk.”
Soth also flips through and discusses William Eggleston’s Guide, a photo book that Soth says changed his life.
William Eggleston’s Guide was the first one-photographer exhibition of color photos at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and it was the collection of photos that forced the world of art to reconsider the validity of color photos at a time when the medium wasn’t respected as a serious one.
If you enjoyed this talk, you can follow along with Soth’s “ramblings” by subscribing to his YouTube channel.