A look at the work of American photographer William Eggleston and his peculiar shot of the world that surrounds him in Memphis, Tennessee

A look at the work of American photographer William Eggleston and his peculiar shot of the world that surrounds him in Memphis, Tennessee

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The way in which William Eggleston addresses photography is unique and absolutely distinguishable, a quality that is not easy to accomplish in this discipline. His unusual perspective, his way of finding harmony in color and his subject-matter; banal, quotidian and sometimes, decidedly ugly, makes him create with unique poetics, that although in the beginning disconcert you, then they catch and obsess you.

Eggleston was born in Memphis, Tennessee where he lives up to now. Son of a wealthy family, he grew up in a safe and privileged environment. Memphis is also his workplace, it’s in this city located in the southern part of the United States where he gets to find art in its dull everyday nature. Juergen Teller recounts that when he visited this great master, he was left totally shocked of how tasteless the place was, “nothing really happened there”. Therefore, it gets so interesting to watch Eggleston’s work, who is an expert in turning “nothing” into something sublime. There isn’t a decisive moment like the one Cartier-Bresson was looking for, not either an effort to report or question politics. It is just his magical eye discovering visual poetry where no one else could ever find it.

Mass America

There is a story, very quoted by now, but that illustrates well this matter. His wife Rose explained that the young William wondered how to continue with his art living in a place where everything surrounding him was so ugly, to which a great friend of him answered “so photograph the ugly stuff”. Almost as an epiphany Eggleston followed his advice. He started photographing in the 60’s, those years in which American culture was enjoying a peak of consumption that had started shyly after the Second World War. Supermarkets, gas stations, mundane entertainment, diners and malls started multiplying like mushrooms in the deep United States, with a mass and cheap esthetic that Eggleston, challenging all the preconceptions, turned into beauty.

Absence

William Eggleston just takes one picture, never two. Sometimes he doesn’t even look through the lens, and he is always, always spontaneous. This artist never plans scenes or framings, it’s life itself and it’s modern every day nature that pushes him constantly to make click. Even today, at the age of 77, he states that he takes pictures every day, wandering thousand times through his familiar places, Leica on hand, finding infinite novelties. He rarely photographs people, his images generally give a feeling of absence, of people that have walked by and then disappeared. This quality pervades his work with a rareness that leads the way to a disturbing feeling.

Presence

And even though it is not the bulk of his work, when the absence becomes presence, he captures people with the same mastery. There is a feeling of stolen moment in their daily ordinary duty. Many times these characters haven’t even realized they are being photographed on their daily chores.

Full color

It is said that William Eggleston is the father of color photography. At the beginning, he worked in black and white like everybody else. In the 60’s color was totally underestimated for being territory of the tasteless world of advertisement, specially fashion’s advertisement. No one who would like to work in this discipline in a serious and artistic way could dare to use color. But Eggleston didn’t pretend to follow the rules; he soon started using color and his work became iconic. When in 1976 he had his first exhibition at Moma, he was absolutely criticized and vilified, his art was truly radical.

“He is the freest person I´ve ever met” Teller affirmed, and the truth is that when you get to know this character, that freedom becomes evident. In the documentary The Colourful Mr. Eggleston, you can appreciate his way of working and his personality, an eccentric aristocrat that has never committed his integrity to please the world. He photographed in color when no one else did and shot his Leica to unimagined perspectives. When it comes to his personal life; during a period, he had two houses, one for his wife and kids and another one for his lover. He chose Memphis to live, a city isolated from the art world and with a conservative attitude. But his I don´t give a fuck attitude, is stronger. An honest freedom that refreshes and enchants.

Be part of KatariMag

In KatariMag we love art, beauty and ideas. We devote hundreds of hours to research and write to deliver the best stories of contemporary culture.

But the love of art also has its needs. So if KatariMag moves you and entertains you, be part of our community and collaborate with us! You can choose between PayPal or Patreon


Newsletter Mensuales por KatariMag

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