Quite plainly, the work on display was a window into the American South. There were no heroics in his photographs, no political agendas hidden in the details. Eggleston called his approach “photographing democratically”—wherein all subjects can be of interest, with no one thing more important than the other. A photograph of an empty living room, or a dog lapping water on the side of the road, or a woman sitting on a parking-lot curb were all equal in front of his lens.
Arguably Eggleston’s most famous photograph is of a bare, exposed lightbulb against a red ceiling, the vibrant cherry hue heightened through dye-transfer processing, which became a hallmark of his practice. Titled Greenwood, Mississippi (1973) but better known as “The Red Ceiling,” it became one of the many works that secured Eggleston’s legacy as “a great poet of the color red,” as author Donna Tartt once penned in Artforum. The image is both formally beautiful and unsettling, like the creeping unease of a Hitchcock film, of whom the artist was a fan. “When you look at the dye,” Eggleston once said of the work, “it is like red blood that’s wet on the wall.”