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‘Dear Bill’: photographers, curators and fans ask questions of William Eggleston…
Simon Baker, curator of photography, Tate Modern: What was the first photograph that was important to you (by you or anyone else), and why?
A picture I took of some prisoners at the state penitentiary. I’m guessing I was about 20 at the time.
Brett Rogers, director, The Photographers’ Gallery: When we recently showed an Eggleston image at the Gallery, we wrote on the accompanying caption that you photograph scenes of everyday life with a ‘snapshot style’. When Nan Goldin visited in January, she took exception to this, saying yours was definitely not a ‘snapshot’ approach. What is your view on this description of your approach?
Thank you, Nan.
Nan Goldin, photographer, New York: Remember our times in Paris? Are you still gonna marry me?
Yes, no question about it.
Michael Glover, art critic, The Independent: You seem to have both loved and loathed the American landscape. How much pain has the holding of such contradictory impulses caused you?
I don’t remember loathing any of it.
Chris Dercon, director, Tate Modern: As we are about to show some of your beautiful dye-transfer prints at Tate Modern, I have been wondering how you decide on the size of the prints you make.
I have currently settled on two sizes: smaller dye transfers and large-format pigment prints.
Alice Jones, deputy arts editor, The Independent: What do you think of Instagram?
I don’t know what they are.
Martin Parr, photographer, Bristol: What is the difference between your current shooting and that of the 1970s?
The subject-matter is different.
Jason Evans, photographer, Brighton: What’s the difference between a photographer who makes art, and an artist who makes photographs?
Not sure there is any difference.
Nina Berman, photographer, New York: Is there a place you’ve never been that you would like to photograph?
I can’t think offhand of any particular place.
Penny Martin, curator and editor-in-chief, The Gentlewoman: What building would you like to blow up?
I’m not in that business.
Alec Soth, photographer, Minneapolis: A few years ago Robert Frank said, “There are too many images, too many cameras now. We’re all being watched. It gets sillier and sillier. As if all action is meaningful. Nothing is really all that special. It’s just life. If all moments are recorded, then nothing is beautiful and maybe photography isn’t an art any more. Maybe it never was.” What do you think about this?
I don’t disagree with any part of that statement.
Alice Hawkins, photographer, Essex: I know you were interested in Elvis, but have you met your fellow Tennessean Dolly Parton? Would you like to take her picture?
Bobby Gillespie, singer, Primal Scream, London: Did you really give the 12-year-old Alex Chilton [the late singer with Big Star] LSD/acid at a party in Memphis in the 1960s?
Nick Hall, picture editor, The Independent Magazine: What’s your favourite colour?
It used be green when I was young. Now I don’t have a favourite.
Michael Benson, curator, Candlestar, London: Novelist Donna Tartt claims to recognise “a sparkle of menace” in your most powerful photographs. Do you agree?
Polly Borland, photographer, London: What are your feelings about death?
I haven’t been there yet.
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, photographers, London: You are on a train from Memphis to Manhattan. It’s a 1,102-mile journey and the train is travelling at 80mph. What is the train-driver’s name?
I call him “someone I think I trust”.
Philip Hensher, novelist and art critic: What should a photographer do with symmetry?
I have no idea.
Lewis Blackwell, creative director, Getty Images, London: Did Garry Winogrand really say to you, “Bill, you can take a good picture of anything”?
Peter Dench, photographer, London: Do you fancy a pint; my round?
Why not, of course it depends on what it’s a pint of…