Let’s continue that talk with the photographer William Eggleston.
LACAYO: Let me ask you about a particular picture of yours that was one of the first I ever saw — a glowing red pick-up truck in a farm field. How did you get that luminous effect?
EGGLESTON: That originated as a slide, and I liked it enough to immediately have it made a dye transfer print. I had a wonderful printer in Chicago. That was one of the first groups of slides I sent him. He would send me back about four or five proofs. They were all superb. I would tell him over the phone: “They all look wonderful!”
LACAYO: What struck me about that picture is that it showed that just by intensifying the color of an ordinary thing, it could be totally transformed, really almost transfigured.
EGGLESTON: In reality that scene was that intense just in nature. The sunlight was that brilliant, late in the afternoon the sunlight had a brilliant orange cast. And when I saw the slide I thought, that’s just the way it really looks.
LACAYO: The post-Impressionists used brilliant color to give ordinary things an almost hallucinatory quality. Do you favor dye transfer printing because it gives you an ability to separately intensify colors?
EGGLESTON: I didn’t really try to do that ever. I try to transfer unmanipulated scenes, without heightening the color saturation.
LACAYO: Do you ever use digital cameras now?
EGGLESTON: No, I have some that have been sent to me by manufacturers to test out and I have just really toyed with them. For one thing they’re not beautiful machines like a Leica. I’ve seen beautiful digital prints that other people have made, but I’ve not seen any reason to abandon film.
LACAYO: I know that for you a photograph is primarily a visual field, a set of aesthetic decisions, not a way of suggesting a story to the viewer. But inevitably when you look at a picture like the one of that old guy sitting on a bed with a gun, you wonder: “What’s going on here? Who is this guy and how did Bill Eggleston get in the room with him?”
EGGLESTON: I can imagine that, but to me it was nothing special. He was the husband of a quite distant relative. We were having an amicable conversation. Many years before he had been a night watchman for this very small town in southern Mississippi. And he was just showing me the kind of pistol they carried around. I think a few minutes before that he had pulled up his shirt and was showing me several scars he had. We were great friends.