William Eggleston - At Zenith
Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
At Zenith is an extended collection of William Eggleston's 1979 cloud based series "Wedgwood Blue". The book begins with the above poem by 19th Century poet W. B Yeats, and a dedication to John Szarkowski, a key figure in Egglestons career and the acceptance of photography as art in general. The poem provides a somewhat vague and interesting start to the book, providing the reader some means of interpretation to a book that includes very banal, abstract and repetitive subject matter.
The poem is the confession of a person that without riches or omnipotence, is unable to deliver somebody neither great riches nor the universe. In place of what they cannot give, they can only offer their dreams.
"The blue and the dim and the dark cloths of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet" could here refer to the images in "At Zenith". While it would be impossible for the artist to deliver the clouds themselves, here Eggleston offers an interpretation of them, his "dreams".
The book contains 33 images, all of clouds in the sky. While the work was shot over 2 years, the photographs are so uniform in colour and composition they seem as though they could have been shot in the same day. The books sequencing describes a sunny day, interrupted by a storm, then redeemed again by the sun.
In this sense At Zenith is a literal manifestation of the archetypal story of light conquering dark.
Repetation, gentle subject matter and high quality of image and print make reading "At Zenith" a relaxing experience, second only to lying on the floor and experiencing the sky itself.
I use clouds quite extensively in my work and this book was an interesting look at how a simple subject matter can become a transcendent image.