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Show and Tell: William Eggleston

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Taken with a five-by-seven camera and infrared film, William Eggleston’s “Nightclub Portraits” captured hirsute bikers, svelte disco swans, and other habitués of the clubs and juke joints of Memphis circa 1973. Eggleston set up his simple black box on a table, where it surreptitiously recorded his subjects in near-total darkness; most were unaware of the camera, and their expressions range from slack-jawed ennui to a sloppy-drunk grimace. Three years later, his MoMA show “William Eggleston’s Guide” would introduce the fine-art crowd to color photography, but in these portraits, black-and-white reigns. On view for the first time, they reveal Eggleston’s camera as a kind of democratic strobe light that fixed revelers from both sides of the tracks in its glare.
At Cheim & Read through September 3.


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