William Eggleston, Harmony Korine, and Juergen Teller Took a Road Trip Through the Bible Belt—See Photos From the Unlikely Journey Here
A new book documents the odd trio's trip.
Ten years ago, William Eggleston, Harmony Korine, and Juergen Teller set off through the American bible belt on a road trip to see nothing.
It almost sounds like a Beckettian joke. For this motley trio of pilgrims it might as well have been.
“[We] had the idea to go on a road trip together from Memphis to Mississippi,” Teller writes in the introduction to a strange, surprisingly poignant new book of photos from the journey, Harmony Korine & Juergen Teller: William Eggleston 414.
“Bill wanted to show us the house he grew up in and drive around in this empty vast land,” Teller writes. “We drove around for days. Miles and miles of dead barren cotton wool land, depressing countryside, and abandoned towns. I asked Bill, ‘Where are we going? Where the fuck are you taking us?’ He replied laughing, ‘I wanted to show you nothing.’”
Teller’s text, along with an equally short one from Korine, are the closest thing we as readers get to a description of the trip. We’re provided no exact dates, no specific locations; not even a reason for why these odd bedfellows, so different in style and age, came together in the first place. (The publisher doesn’t have any additional information either.)
Then again, the mystery feels appropriate. A gothic mysticism has always surrounded Eggleston, and he’s our hero here, returning home like the prodigal son after a lifetime of extravagance. He certainly plays the part, dressed in a dark suit and often outlined in a plume of crawling cigarette smoke. A drink is almost always in his hand.
Though none of the pictures in the book came from Eggleston’s camera, they look like they could have—and not just because they depict the influential photographer’s southern stomping grounds.
Korine—a filmmaker behind some of the most controversial films of the last three decades, including Gummo and Spring Breakers—and Teller—a photographer whose high-key snapshot aesthetic has helped define fashion advertising over the same period—each adopt their host’s eye for macabre Americana. The pair train their lenses on abandoned gas stations and unexpected pops of commercial color in the drab winter landscape.
The fun comes in the shots of the trio, along with Eggleston’s son, cavorting like old friends. They lounge on hotel beds and gather around a table at a Teppanyaki restaurant. At a roadside gun store, they pose with firearms like boys playing war.
Korine captures the vibe in his own poetic passage: “We drove to Mississippi in the late night. The stars guided us through Tupelo and Jacksonville. We retraced some footsteps. We ate a Sonic Burger. We saw some dead deers hanging in the backyard. The booze was flowing. We had no real plans. No goals. Just followed the light. We drove like this for a few days. On the last night, Eggleston played us the piano. He was wearing black leather gloves. I think there was a pistol somewhere in the room. It was beautiful.”
Pictures of Eggleston’s turn at the piano come near the end of the book, after a stop at his mother’s grave. But they’re not as performative as Korine’s text would suggest. He sits alone in a large parlor room decorated for Christmas, seemingly unaware that he’s being photographed.
Harmony Korine & Juergen Teller: William Eggleston 414 is out now from Steidl. See more photos from the book below:
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