Research – William Eggleston

Eggleston, a pioneer of colour photography, has a snap shot, vernacular approach. In a similar way to Stephen Shore, William Eggleston appears to document what he sees as he sees it. Eggleston was born in Memphis and many of his images are from this area. I was fortunate enough to visit the William Eggleston exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in August and seeing the images in print made a difference in how I think I responded to them, they had more impact in print but I was more fascinated by the story that went along with them. His images are heavily saturated with colour which I liked, the reds seemed to add an eerie /macabre twist to some of the images and the placement of colour in the images was extremely important and not always coincidental. Words and signs also seem to appear frequently in Eggleston’s work, however his work to me is all about the colour.

Eggleston is quoted as saying

‘I had this notion of what I called a democratic way of looking around; that nothing was more important or less important’.

One image that stood out to me was the image of the two men standing by a car, one man is dressed in a black suit and the other appears to be a servant dressed a white suit, both seem to mimic each other’s stance but knowing that Eggleston photographed in the Deep South it throws a very different light on the meaning behind the image. The colour contrasts of black and white as well as two men seeming similar in stance yet worlds apart. This is where I feel Eggleston differs from Stephen Shore, both have used a snap shot approach and taken banal images yet I feel there is an underlying story to Eggleston’s work which I do not get from Shore. Eggleston is more experimental in the angles he chooses and looks up and down as well as forwards, the subjects may be everyday common place but they appear more abstract with the change in view or the high saturation of colour.

The famous Eggleston image of the tricycle shows how a different angle has made all the difference, The bright red handlebars contrast with the almost non-existent sky, The green seat of the tricycle and the home in the distance. Who owns the bike? Where is the child? The handles and the seat looks so colourful and new, just the wheels and the handlebars are rusty?

His iconic image of a blood-red ceiling with what appears to be white spider legs of cables took on a new meaning when I read the notation next to the image about the murder of Eggleston’s friend to whom this ceiling belonged.



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