The Democratic Forest

The Democratic Forest

William Eggleston

Steidl, 2016

Ten volumes, 1328 pages

The first edition of The Democratic Forest was published in 1989. It was a 175 pages volume, a ridiculously small portion of this body of work that sums up over twelve thousand pictures. How could that sea of images be represented in 175 pages? It simply couldn’t.

Steidl published in 2016 a new edition with a thousand images that give a closer look to this vast archive, creating a road trip through the 1980’ United States and going as far as the Berlin Wall. This is not the first time Steidl publishes Eggleston’s work in a massive set (with 10 volumes in this case). The printing quality and design is as good as you can get, the amount of volumes makes each single book not so expensive but the question remains: how can the general public get access to these prohibitive sets? Some have argue that only libraries and collectors can buy them.

Buying ten books at a time from only one photographer might seem a bit excessive, but there can be no discussion upon the coherence of printing a selection of at least a 1/12 part of the complete archive that is The Democratic Forest. Eggleston meant to have a democratic view of the world surrounding him and thus represented the most mundane subjects with the same complexity and significance as the most elevated. Steidl has devoted three years of work to make this set possible, an amount of weeks’ work reflected in the book’s value but not in its price.

We can only hope that all libraries and collections, big and small, who claim to be specialized in photography, will be sensitive enough to understand how important it is to include this new edition in their shelves, and be democratic enough to share it with as many lovers of beauty as possible.