William Eggleston

William Eggleston b1939 Memphis USA

William Eggleston’s Guide

Read the exhibition press release. Core resources :MOMA _1976.pdf

An exhibition of Eggleston’s work , curated by John Szarkowski , opened at the MoMA , New York , on the 25th May 1976. To accompany the exhibition the museum published its first colour book of photographs ,The Guide. Consisting of seemingly mundane images it includes photographs of friends and family surroundings , making it something much more than a collection of indiscriminate photographs but a personal body of work capturing ” private moments that Eggleston shot with great discretion”. However a number of critics declared the exhibition un-inspiring and dull.

Influenced by Henri Cartier-Bresson Eggleston was initially a B&W photographer . However from the mid 60’s onwards he photographed in colour and his highly saturated images depict the banality of ordinary every- day life. I find it interesting that he rarely dates or gives his images titles declaring “thats not about photography” — I like to give all mine some sort of title ! Whilst preferring to “photograph the boring stuff” his images are still interesting , Martin Parr describes them as capturing the “ colour of ordinary life” that contain “complex messages” . Look carefully around the frame and edges of his images , they are full of intricate detail that is all too easy to initially miss. Eggleston’s use of the dye transfer process was innovative in the art world of that time , something previously only used commercially, and certainly not something to be taken seriously.

Eggleston’s images are not decorative but his use of colour is quite distinctive.The image of a red ceiling (see below) was taken at his friends house as he lay on the bed with his friend looking up , this friend was later brutally murdered in the same room. There is something disturbing about the image , time has added another layer of meaning , the context has changed. Red , an intense colour , the colour of danger, passion , blood , heat , anger , one can imagine all these emotions when looking at this image knowing what happened there. Using harmonious tones , blocks of solid colour , and colour accents throughout his work his images are something much more than just lurid snapshots , but carefully considered and unique compositions.

Red ceiling 1973.
Accessed 4/6/15

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2 thoughts on “William Eggleston

  1. Catherine

    I think he has such a unique way of capturing modern life. Making me think again about the difference a caption makes, especially viz the tricycle. Also regarding the role of the curator and the different views of the Exhibition curated by Szarkowski – not so much about the photographs but how they’re put together.

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