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Don’t Miss Eggleston’s ‘Los Alamos’ on View at Foam in Amsterdam

William Eggleston, En Route to New Orleans, 1972-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust / Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

William Eggleston, Memphis, 1965-1968, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust / Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

When he first started the project in 1966, a young William Eggleston had plans to publish the Los Alamos photographs over a series of 20 volumes. By the time the pictures were finally exhibited, 43 years had passed. They were published in 2003, when the photographer was in his mid-sixties.

Eggleston spent four years on Los Alamos, traveling westward through the American South—from Memphis to Santa Monica— between 1966 through 1968 and 1972 through 1974. In the intervening years, he took a hiatus to focus on William Eggleston’s Guide with MoMA curator John Szarkowski.

The photographer had friends accompany him on his many road trips, including director Dennis Hopper and curator Walter Hopps, who ultimately wrote the introduction for the book. Hopps was there in fact when Eggleston spotted the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1973, forty years after it had served as the secret site for The Manhattan Project, and chose it for a title.

Eggleston was an outlier- he used the same dye-transfer process used by advertising agencies in in the 1950s and 1960s. Szarkowski once described Eggleston’s photographs as “perfect.” The art critic Hilton Kramer, on the other hand, thought them “perfectly banal.”

It would be both a mistake and a cliche to say that Eggleston found beauty in the mundane. In truth, he conjured it himself, often from almost nothing at all. His saturated colors, meticulously controlled and enhanced, along with his signature close crops, lifted objects and people from the real world and placed them inside a parallel world.

Hopps remembers what the photographer said to him at Los Alamos: “You know, I’d like to have a secret lab like that myself.”

Those who appear in Los Alamos— the boy with the shopping cart in Memphis, the smoking woman with her back turned in a diner— become characters who inhabit all of our imaginations from the moment we’re introduced. They follow us wherever we go, though they never move at all.

Los Alamos is on view at Foam in Amsterdam starting March 16, 2017.

William Eggleston, Memphis, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust / Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

William Eggleston, Memphis, 1965, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust / Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

William Eggleston, Memphis, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust / Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

William Eggleston, Louisiana, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust / Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

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