LACAYO: You were born in 1939. When your father went off to the Pacific in World War II, you and your mother moved in with her parents, who had a cotton plantation in the Mississippi delta. But your grandfather was also a judge in Sumner, Miss., about 15 miles away, and kept a house there. So did you mostly grow up in the house in town?
EGGLESTON: We had two houses. One was the plantation. But my mother stayed at the Sumner house, so I considered that little tiny town my place. Life in the country was sort of remote. It was lonely — the nearest neighbor was fifteen miles. There was nothing in every direction but cotton fields.
LACAYO: Were you an indoors kind of a kid?
EGGLESTON: I had to be — I had asthma. Until I was about eight or ten, then suddenly it went away forever. Back then there was nothing they could do for it. We had a big oxygen tank in my room. I would spend about twenty minutes a day inhaling oxygen and that seemed to help. It was severe for years, so I was pretty much restricted to being an indoor person. Playing any kind of sports or just running around the block, I would get sick and sweaty.
LACAYO: And you played piano since childhood. Can you read music?
EGGLESTON: I can. I don't like reading music. It's like learning a language. You can't read music proficiently overnight. It takes time, it's boring work.
LACAYO: I know you also draw all the time, abstract drawings in color. You started to draw as a kid?
EGGLESTON: And even as a kid the drawings I did were abstract. They weren't pictures of people or things, they were mostly shapes.
LACAYO: Do you find as you've gotten older that your photography is being overtaken by the drawing, the way it happened with Cartier-Bresson? In his later years he stopped taking pictures and returned to painting full time.
EGGLESTON: Oh no. They're completely separate for me.
LACAYO: You attended a few colleges but never graduated. But when you were at your first school, Vanderbilt, a friend urged you to get a camera and start taking pictures, which you did. At what point did you start to think, I'm not a painter, I'm a photographer?
EGGLESTON: It never crossed my mind. I first entered Vanderbilt as a freshman and for several years before that I had been to a boarding school. My closest friend there shared my interest in music and electronics. Photography completely disinterested me. Even then he would urge me to get a camera. But it wasn't until we were both at Vanderbilt that he marched me down to the premiere camera store in Nashville and I bought a camera with a view finder. This was in the days before single lens reflex.
LACAYO: So if somebody hadn't come along and pushed you into photography you might never have found your way there?
EGGLESTON: I give him all credit. Because the very day I bought the camera I loaded it up and went to Centennial Park where they have this big reproduction of the Parthenon. I took some color pictures of it and had them developed as slides. And I was astonished at how perfectly they came up. From that moment on photography was it for me. Which was reflected in my lack of attendance at other classes.
Entretien réalisé en octobre 2008 trouvé ici.