Possibly Memphis

Object Details


Possibly Memphis


William Eggleston (American, born 1939)




Memphis, Tennessee, United States (Place created)


1965 to 1970


Gelatin silver print


15.7 × 24 cm (6 3/16 × 9 7/16 in.)


© Eggleston Artistic Trust, 2002

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A dark figure stooping over to sweep a long concourse is silhouetted by the glow of fluorescent light and window illumination. Prominent lines from ceiling tiles, window panels, and a railing appear to lock him into a seemingly endless corridor. Even the brilliant flood of light does not prevent a sense of alienation. The janitor seems segregated from the rest of the world.

Despite his proximity, this solitary black man seems unaware of the photographer. There is a sense of melancholy to his posture--perhaps what William Eggleston noticed most. Despite his patrician upbringing, Eggleston experienced the deep South before integration. He must have been keenly aware of the turmoil surrounding the civil rights movement, including numerous strikes and demonstrations that took place in Memphis. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis the year this photograph was made. Implied here is Eggleston's awareness of racial difference and the plight of the black worker.


Eggleston Artistic Trust

Strange Days: Photographs from the Sixties by Winogrand, Eggleston, and Arbus (July 1 to October 5, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), July 1 to October 5, 2003
Eggleston Portraits (July 21, 2016 to June 28, 2017)
  • National Portrait Gallery (London), July 21 to October 23, 2016
  • National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne), March 17 to June 18, 2017

Keller, Judith and Brett Abbott. Strange Days: Photographs from the Sixties by Winogrand, Eggleston, and Arbus (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum), fig. 4.

Prodger, Phillip. William Eggleston: Portraits, exh. cat. (London: National Portrait Gallery, London, 2016), p. 49.