Finally, while it would seem disingenuous to categorize anything
does these days as being under the radar, this fall, the celebrated pioneer of color photography released his first album of music (Musik
, if you’re interested) and the fervor for his collection of synthesizer improvisations threatened to overshadow the arrival of one of his most remarkable portfolios, Election Eve,
now out from Steidl in a gloriously beautiful edition. In 1976, when Jimmy Carter was running for president of the United States, Eggleston was asked by a magazine editor to photograph the Southern hometown of the presidential candidate, who was once a peanut farmer. Eggleston, now 78 and resolutely apolitical, did not accept the commission, but visited Plains, Georgia, on his own terms.
The famously at-war-with-the-obvious Eggleston did not photograph the candidate, or his family, or supporters; in fact, scarcely any people appear in these pictures and there is scant indication of the impending election, other than a photograph of a “Let’s Elect Jimmy Carter President” sticker plastered on the bumper of a gold-colored Chrysler. But the impressions made by human beings (particularly the photographer himself) are revelatory, and even in the languor and stillness of seemingly benign settings (parking lots, baseball field bleachers, roadsides, mounds of red Georgia dirt, the exterior of a peanut processing plant), there is a profound sense of anticipation and an elegiac discovery of beauty in the overlooked.
Viewing these pictures anew and many for the first time in 2017, it is impossible not to also see them as lessons, subtle but potent signs in the landscape, pointing to the kinds of things we as a country are still all too apt to miss.