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Evocative Photographs Catalogue Haunting 70s Americana

This 1976 exhibition was the first presentation of color photography at MoMA.
All images courtesy the artist and David Zwirner Books

Lonely parking lots and snapshots of romanticized Americana bring new depth to boilerplate visuals ripped from the interiors of the country’s heartland. Together, the many visuals are the latest collected works of photographer William Eggleston. Titled The Democratic Forest, Selected Works, the book includes over 70 color reproduction from Eggleston’s expansive legacy photographing the sleepy, suburban US.


Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Eggleston photographs everyday mundanity with a cinematic eye, producing deeply human images. It is within these unpopulated American pockets, vaguely haunted by abandonment, that raw emotion resonates. Eggleston’s quiet rooms ring with colorful intensity and perspective, regardless of the relative absence of human subjects.

A few shots of a lonesome fueling station and a cleared-out diner draw attention to the props of life, asking viewers to consider the spaces left behind by humans.  Calling to mind the similarly stark tableaus of 20th-century painter Edward Hopper, Eggleston allows the emotional implications of his photos to hover in the air, like sun-cut dust.

The artist has long exhibited a skill for realizing the beauty of a lack of human presence; as he puts in a release of the book, he is constantly “at war with the obvious.” In 1976, the photographer broke boundaries by debuting an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art—the first in color at the institution.

The conjunction book and concluded show title—The Democratic Forest—derives from the photographer’s equal treatment of all subjects in his compositions. As the artist shares in the show’s description, “no particular subject is more or less important than another.”

Purchase the David Zwirner hard-copy photography book, William Eggleston: The Democratic Forest, Selected Works, at David Zwirner Books, here. Find more information and photography work from William Eggleston on his official website, here.


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