Southern Focus

William Eggleston’s Back-Roads Beauty

Uncovering newly published images of the American South from a renowned color photographer

Photo: William Eggleston / © Eggleston Artistic Trust

Last year, the photographer William Eggleston’s sons sifted through a trove of their living-legend father’s slides. “As we reviewed the five and a half thousand Kodachromes, Dad would come in and out of the studio,” writes William Eggleston III in the introduction to The Outlands (Steidl), a gorgeous new three-volume collection of hundreds of previously unpublished photographs that trace a journey from suburban Memphis to back-roads Mississippi in the sixties and seventies. “It had been more than forty years since he had seen most of these pictures.” The images the elder Eggleston captured—a royal-blue tricycle; a bright red neon motel sign; a bubblegum-pink restaurant facade; and this middle-of-wherever Shake Shack with a parked green car surrounded by greener fields—shaped the way the world viewed the South. With his eyes and lens, Eggleston established color photography as an art form in its own right. “The tension between what is depicted and the artist’s arrangement of color repeatedly nudges us,” the collection’s editor, Mark Holborn, writes. “Is this a Delta sunset or an exploration of yellow? The answer, of course, is both.”