I just finished watching the DVD William Eggleston in the Real World (obtained from the local library) - I found it by turns fascinating, mildly depressing and illuminating.
Eggleston comes across as laconic and taciturn in the extreme, yet with burst of humour and grace.
The first 15 or minutes of the film follow him as he wanders around Mayfield Kentucky on a freezing winters day photographing at the invitiation of Gus Van Sant. He seems mildly lost and yet sure of what he wants - he stops and starts, backtracks, prowls around a diner - though I ended up wanting to give him a scarf and a hot cup of tea (with maybe something a little stronger in it).
In different scenes Eggleston seems to slow down almost to a stop but then there would be a burst of energy before slowing down again. His speaks so quietly, his southern accent and diction almost a mumble, that his words are subtitled, highlighting the feeling that this is all something foreign.
And at the temple like Getty Museum in LA he becomes almost like an excited schoolboy as he wanders around a newly hung show of his work, peering closely at a print here, exclaiming about the selection of work there - all the while the public viewing the exhibit apparently oblivious to who this well dressed elderly gentleman is.
At the end of the movie, the film maker attempts to engage Eggleston in a conversation about the process of picture making and Eggleston merely becomes more and more obtuse (and the film maker more and more annoying), but it is preceded by his ruminations on dreams about beautiful photographs - which is quite magical - and ends with the following:
"Whatever it is about pictures, photographs, it's just about impossible to follow up with words. They don't have anything to do with each other...Art, or what we call that, you can love it and appreciate it, but you can't really talk about it. Doesn't make any sense."
The more you watch him, the more and more his pictures seem to make simple sense - this is merely how he sees. In the end it all seemed to confirm Geoff Dyers description of Eggleston where he says, in part:
"Eggleston's photographs look like they were taken by a Martian who lost the ticket for his flight home and ended up working at a gun shop in a small town near Memphis. On the weekend he searches for the ticket - it must be somewhere - with a haphazard thoroughness that confounds established methods of investigation..."
(I should add that the "production values" in this documentary are poor - to put it mildly. But if you can manage to put those aside, which I must admit took me a while, I still think it's worth watching)