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William Eggleston, the Pioneer of Color Photography

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Wolfgang Tillmans

Wolfgang Tillmans

Augusten Burroughs’ strange and sad profile of photographer William Eggleston for T, the New York Times Style Magazine:

WE LEAVE THE OFFICES of the Eggleston Trust and go to his apartment. The first thing one sees upon entering is a bright red plastic sign with a yellow border, printed with capitalized white sans-serif text. It warns, “THE OCCUPANT OF THIS APARTMENT WAS RECENTLY HOSPITALIZED FOR COMPLICATIONS DUE TO ALCOHOL. HE IS ON A MEDICALLY PRESCRIBED DAILY PORTION OF ALCOHOL. IF YOU BRING ADDITIONAL ALCOHOL INTO THIS APARTMENT YOU ARE PLACING HIM IN MORTAL DANGER. YOUR ENTRY AND EXIT INTO THIS APARTMENT IS BEING RECORDED. WE WILL PROSECUTE SHOULD THIS NOTICE BE IGNORED. THE EGGLESTON FAMILY.” It is a devastating thing to see. Heartbreaking. I was also an alcoholic for decades, the kind who had shakes and saw spiders. I’m not even through the hallway and my mind is racing from “I want that sign” to “What kind of doctor prescribes alcohol for an alcoholic? Where was he when I was drinking?”

I ask if his drinking ever got in the way of his photography. “I’ve never been able to take a picture after a drink,” he says. “It just doesn’t work. Maybe — I don’t know what it is. It’s not like I’m too drunk to take a picture. I just — the whole idea of it just goes away after one or two drinks.” Eggleston perches atop the bench in front of his Bösendorfer concert grand piano. An active ashtray and a sweating tumbler of icy bourbon on a burn-marked coaster sit inside the piano directly on the frame. He reaches for the glass and takes several small, noisy sips and his body visibly relaxes. I know his relief, exactly. “I’m gonna get this drink down,” he tells me. And as soon as he does he wants another. He suggests that I pour one for myself and join him but I tell him that I don’t drink anymore, that once I start I can’t ever stop. He replies, “Well, I can stop, but I’ll admit I want another one.”

The profile is accompanied by a short film by Wolfgang Tillmans:

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