Following the publication of Chromes in 2011 and Los Alamos Revisited in 2012, the reassessment of Eggleston’s career continues with the publication of The Democratic Forest, his most ambitious project. This ten-volume set containing more than a thousand photographs is drawn from a body of twelve thousand pictures made by Eggleston in the 1980s. Following an opening volume of work in Louisiana, which serves as a visual preface, the remaining books cover Eggleston’s travels from his familiar ground in Memphis and Tennessee to Dallas, Pittsburgh, Miami, Boston, the pastures of Kentucky, and as far as the Berlin Wall. The final volume leads the viewer back to the South of small towns, cotton fields, the Civil War battlefield of Shiloh and the home of Andrew Jackson, the President from Tennessee.
The democracy of Eggleston’s title refers to his democracy of vision, through which he represents the most mundane subjects with the same complexity and significance as the most elevated. The exhaustive editing process of The Democratic Forest—a rarely shown body of work of which only a fraction has been published to date—has taken over three years, and was guided by the belief that only on this large scale can the magnitude of Eggleston’s achievement be represented. With no precedent in American art, Eggleston’s photography seen as a whole has all the grandeur of an epic piece of fiction. The Democratic Forest includes a new introduction by Mark Holborn and the re-publication of Eudora Welty’s original essay on the work.