Photographic Works by William Eggleston
On View at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
February 26-July 28, 2013
William Eggleston assumes a neutral gaze and creates his art from commonplace subjects: a farmer’s muddy Ford truck, a red ceiling in a friend’s house, the contents of his own refrigerator. In his work, Eggleston photographs “democratically”–literally photographing the world around him. His large-format prints monumentalize everyday subjects, everything is equally important; every detail deserves attention. Eggleston almost single-handedly validated color photography as a legitimate artistic medium.
A native Southerner raised on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta, Eggleston has created a singular portrait of his native South since the late 1960s. After discovering photography in the early 1960s, he abandoned a traditional education and instead learned from photographically illustrated books by Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Frank. Although he began his career making black-and-white images, he soon abandoned them to experiment with color technology to record experiences in more sensual and accurate terms at a time when color photography was largely confined to commercial advertising.
William Eggleston (American, born Memphis, Tennessee, 1939). Untitled (Louisiana), 1980, printed 1999. Dye-transfer print. 11 7/8 x 17 13/16 in. (30.2 x 45.3 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and Elizabeth S. and Robert J. Fisher Gift, 2012 (2012.302). © Eggleston Artistic Trust
Eggleston enjoyed a relatively successful career as a photographer despite or because of criticisms. His preference for color photography was slowly gaining acceptance, but it was only around 1973 that his color images truly took off. It was then that Eggleston turned his attention to the dye-transfer process.This printing process was mostly only being used for print ads on glossy magazine pages. When applied to his art photographs, another level of color was achieved.
In 1976 with the support of John Szarkowski, the influential photography historian, critic, and curator, Eggleston mounted “Color Photographs” a now famous exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. William Eggleston’s Guide , in which Szarkowski called Eggleston’s photographs “perfect,” accompanied this groundbreaking one-person show that established his reputation as a pioneer of color photography. His subjects were mundane, everyday, often trivial, so that the real subject was seen to be color itself. These images helped establish Eggleston as one of the first non-commercial photographers working in color and inspired a new generation of photographers, as well as filmmakers.
Eggleston has published his work extensively. He continues to live and work in Memphis, and travels considerably for photographic projects.