eggleston and the new-again topographic

William Eggleston (at Los Angeles County Museum of Art until Jan 16, 2011) has become so associated with the blank suburban stare of the banalities, it’s always refreshing to revisit just what he’s got and why it engages. Unlike so many people now working this deadpan seam (ahem), Eggleston retains a smudge of humanity.

Americans love to fetishise anything remotely creative and outsider, and so Eggleston is now treated like a Very Important Artist in his later years – quite rightly so, and this middlebrow grass-roots championing has now advanced him to the top level of living photographers of merit. He has the attitude and media-tackle to carry this persona off, but at heart he’s like a dog fascinated with sniffing at lampposts. It is the whole world and point of existence. What happens outside this visceral, uncontrollable urge is immaterial to both dog and photographer. Eggleston has happily managed to remain the ringmaster of his own scent.

For the original topographic see Berenice Abbott and Atget. More on the New Topographic in photography in the Guardian and at Blueprint.

A new edition of the original 1975 book, by Steidl – New Topographics, by Britt Salvesen – is available from the Steidl site.