After Now Here Then, with its obliterated pictures of eye-widening color, I had to see some more, and sought out a copy of Huger Foote’s 2000 monograph My Friend From Memphis, and I’m so glad I did.

A brief introduction from William Eggleston, no less, and a blurb from Bertolucci (in which the color in Foote’s work is compared to Hichcock’s early color films) kick off 85 color plates that make me feel simultaneously horribly inadequate and… and… and I want to say “inspiredly determined,” but ‘inspiredly’ is not a word. I’m not quite sure what “inspiredly determined” means; it’s more than ‘determined in an inspired way,’ but flakier than determined.

I don’t know.

So 1) work of this aesthetic sophistication and artistic accomplishment is inspiring—like Harry Gruyaert and Saul Leiter, Foote’s color sense and vision are sublime, and his composition is maddening in its complexity, yet frustrating in its simplicity—it inspires me to try to pay more attention to light and color, and to shoot more, but simultaneously depresses me at how far I still have to go and doubt if I can ever get there (wherever ‘there’ is). And then 2) Huger Foote got his start as a fashion and portrait photographer, and so already had art world connections when he unfortunately got carjacked and shot in Memphis and ended up convalescing by walking around and shooting 100s of rolls of film and making dye and pigment transfer prints, and this sort of heroic story puts Mr. Foote on a plane where mere mortals like me are unlikely to ever tread, even though I know that he’s just another white, southern boy, much like me, and so there’s nothing that really stands in the way of me creating some pictures that are as worth looking at as the ones in Foote’s oeurve, and all I need to do is get out there and look, pay attention, and shoot shoot shoot.

That’s the long way of saying that My Friend From Memphis leaves me inspiredly determined.

Here are some bad iPhone shots of a few of my favorites. They don’t hold a candle to the content in the actual book.

Maybe you can see what I mean?

Great stuff. The color is just too much, and the composition is mind numbing. I’ll be keeping this around for awhile, I think.

I pulled this copy from a used book store or something in California called ‘Optical Insights,’ via Abe’s Books. It’s long out of print, but you can find used copies around for $30 to $50 (or a huge amount more), shipped. My copy has some slight yellowing on the edges, and the plastic dust jacket is a bit scratched up, but it’s otherwise in great shape. One day, maybe I’ll look at enough pictures and read enough criticism to comment on these books a bit more appropriately instead of just yammering on like some awestruck sycophant. Until then, you’re stuck with this.

Rest assured, so far, I’m not making any money from this: no affiliate links, no ads, just James.

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