The Ogden Museum of Southern Art's Curator of Photography on the Tav Falco show opening tonight.

Photo by Tav Falco
By Tav Falco
Tonight, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art opens a new show, "50 Photos: The Iconography of Chance" by Tav Falco, best known for his band, Panther Burns. Ogden Curator of Photography Richard McCabe flipped through Falco's photos before they were hung to discuss his work.

"He grew up in Arkansas, and he went to the University of Arkansas, studied theater, literature, and art. When he left Arkansas, he drove his Norton motorcycle to Memphis, Tennessee. He didn’t have a job, but he didn’t even take a photography class. He had learned to develop film, and when he got to Memphis, he had heard of this photographer, William Eggleston, that needed an assistant to develop film. He drove his motorcycle up to Eggleston’s house and Eggleston hired him on the spot.

William Eggleston, one of the most important photographers of the Twentieth Century, taught Tav all he knows about photography. That’s what he told me. And they would also go on these trips together, photographing. So if you know Eggleston’s work, his early black and white work - which looks like his color work except it’s in black and white - it’s very much similar. They were shooting the same stuff, going on the same trips. [pointing at a photo] This is Eggleston’s leg actually. He wears a little garter thing.

It’s a 10-year period where he was in Memphis, and he’d go around photographing, mainly in Memphis. Mississippi Delta, Louisiana a little bit, Arkansas. It’s a mishmash of roadside work with local Memphis people. [pointing at a photo] I couldn’t tell you who some of the people are, but it was an interesting period. Integration has only gone on for five, 10 years. He’s a young white guy who’s interested in black music. He has a couple of really great shots of juke joints,

When The Cramps came to Memphis in, I think it was ’80, they did an album on Charlie Feathers. He has a couple of pictures in his book of Lux Interior of The Cramps. They hung out together. It’s scenesters in the Memphis music scene - an edgy, rock ‘n’ roll take on the music scene.

Another thing he did is, once he got into Memphis, he founded this group called TeleVista, which was a kind of art-action group. He was experimenting with video cameras really early in the ‘70s. That Eggleston video, “Stranded in Canton,” which I think they showed at Prospect 2 - Tav was a part of that, filming with them. Exploring videography before it got popular.
Eggleston’s a big audiophile, but he plays piano and he’s got this huge stereo system. Whereas Eggleston would be listening to Bach and Mozart, Tav was listening to R.L. Burnside. I think that comes out a little bit as a little bit more of youth culture permeates his work. Eggleston’s not so much known for his portraiture work, where Tav has more of a portraiture slant to his work than Eggleston. But the similarities are the snapshot aesthetic. Just banal imagery, such as this, the roadside. Southern culture. Southern things.
I think he’s an amazing photographer. I had to tell him, "Tav, I love your music, but you have to understand that to me, as a curator of photography, this is the most important aspect of your show." He agrees that this is what he’s trying to push more than anything. He got into music as a sideline to his art. Art, in his view, is harder to get into, harder to make it in Memphis at that time. He got into the music scene. I know the Alex Chilton connection and all that, Panther Burns and the whole kind of rock ‘n’ roll thing. [pointing at a photo] Here’s Jerry Lee Lewis in that one there.

 Eggleston’s from a planter’s family, Mississippi. Big money. Tav was second generation Italian immigrant, and he’s more - I think it’s more of that whole rock ‘n’ roll Memphis scene, where I think Eggleston was about 10 years removed from that. And a little bit more refined than maybe Tav. Eggleston went to color. Tav stayed with black and white. So a lot of this time, the ‘70s, early ‘70s, Eggleston was already pondering his show at the MoMA, and his color work. He had kind of moved on.

I think [Tav's] work comes from a young, white guy who’s very influenced by black culture at the time. This is the first generation that did that. Or it wasn’t taboo, I’ll put it that way."

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