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How to Mystify Color Photography

HAD THEY BEEN SHOWN in a gallery, William Eggleston’s color photographs would not have raised special problems. Nowadays it’s quite normal that dealers imagine photos of all kinds to be art, worth a try in an increasingly sporty market. Eggleston’s images—dye transfer prints that have been made from slides—represent a large genre whose trademark is the very averageness of its subjects. We are not certain what these pictures tell us of suburban life around Memphis and northern Mississippi, circa 1970, but they describe it unexceptionally well. They are neither quite casual nor overtly tendentious. They have the snapshotter’s typical focus on a center of interest, an object or a person, but they exhibit a bit more range in the trivialities they permit. While in theory a jigsaw puzzle (uncompleted), or the image of a ham dinner may turn up in the family carousel, Eggleston appears to know

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