I'll be the first to concede that William Eggleston isn't to everyone's taste. If you don't care for him, no argument. If he is to your taste, however, don't hesitate—For Now is the second-best-ever Eggleston book*, and a quiet masterwork of bookmaking, and it's a limited edition—the casebound version of the second edition, which is what's available for now (forgive my attempt at humor), is limited to just 3,000 copies.
[UPDATE Wednesday May 4: The book is now showing as sold out, which is frustrating. This may be a temporary condition; Amazon sometimes stops taking orders when it gets too many for a book it doesn't have in stock. If you want one, keep checking back—there might be another shipment coming. —Ed.]
All the pictures are new to us. They were chosen by Michael Almereyda with the help of Caldecot Chubb and Winston Eggleston from Eggleston's archives, with Eggleston's consent. I haven't made a close study to back up this contention, but I'll bet the best Eggleston books are collaborations with picture editors who have a firm hand. The seminal and best one—the indispensable William Eggleston's Guide**, which belongs in every collection of American photography books—was edited by John Szarkowski, who discovered Eggleston and brought him to the world's attention. Michael Almereyda has also done a superb job of picture selection—he seems to have picked particularly Egglestonish Egglestons with an unerring eye. Some of the NOS (new old shots—my weak humor again) are banal even by Eggleston's standards, which is saying something, but, if you think about it, this is the opposite of challenging work. Like many did, I originally came at Eggleston with my back up, but that's ancient history now—I long ago learned how to look at him and to love his best. These pictures will reward anyone who's done the same—they're fully in the vein of his most characteristic work. Comfortable as an old shoe, but fresh as new fruit.
It's the book itself that really pleases. Just last week I got my contributor's copy of Gerd Ludwig's 2001 book Broken Empire: After the Fall of the USSR, and the photography is outstanding...while the book is sort of provisionally okay. A lot of the pictures are presented one to a page. But a fair number of them are full bleeds with a third of their picture area spilling over the gutter, which is a particularly unhappy way to look at photographs in a book. I don't hate it, but the book certainly could have been better. As bookmaking, it falls solidly in the "not too bad" category.
For Now was the next book I picked up, and...what a contrast. It's generously but not pretentiously large at 13 3/4 x 12 1/4, and each picture floats on an aptly proportioned field of white, with no preferential treatment for horizontals vs. verticals or vice-versa. The reproductions are just gorgeous, almost works of art in themselves—spot-varnished for a subtle gloss differential from the page, sized just right, soft and delicate, perfectly apropos for the original medium of color negative film shot with a variety of old Leicas. The pacing and modulation of the pictures is effortlessly excellent, and the book offers several blocks of text—none too long, all good to read—to further modulate the flow. A veritable model of what a photography book ought to be, in my opinion.
Jack Woody, head honcho of Twin Palms, has produced some superb books over the years. This Eggleston book is what happens when you've poured blood, sweat, and tears into making fine photography books for so long it's become second nature. Just a pleasure to look at, a pure pleasure. Splendid, splendid book. If you love this photographer, I can hardly recommend it highly enough.
*Okay, maybe tied for second. I won't argue if you have another favorite.
**If you don't have this, for heaven's sake get it now—the reprint has just gone out of print. After what's left is gone, who knows how long before you'll be able to get it again without spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.