William Eggleston is
at war with the ordinary
BY: MICHAEL GONZALEZ
Since the early 1960s, William Eggleston used color photographs to describe the cultural transformations in Tennessee and the rural South. He registers these changes in scenes of everyday life, such as portraits of family and friends, as well as gasoline stations, cars, and shop interiors. Switching from black and white to color, his response to the vibrancy of postwar consumer culture and America's bright promise of a better life paralleled Pop art's fascination with consumerism. Eggleston's "snapshot aesthetic" speaks to new cultural phenomena as it relates to photography: from the Polaroid's instantaneous images, the way things slip in and out of view in the camera lens, and our constantly shifting attention. Eggleston captures how ephemeral things represent human presence in the world, while playing with the idea of experience and memory and our perceptions of things to make them feel personal and intimate.
Why He Matters
Eggleston was the first artist to take dye transfer printing out of advertising and use it to create art. He is also credited with taking the so called "snapshot aesthetic" usually associated with family photos and amateur photographers and turning it into a crafted picture imitating life, inspiring future generations of contemporary photographers, like Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson, and film directors, like David Lynch. And while he was not the first artist to use color photography, it was his pioneering work that is credited with making it a legitimate artistic medium, which forever divides the history of photography from before and after color.
Eggleston has always had a different way of seeing the world. His daughter Andrea once caught him staring for hours at a china set. It was not an expensive set and there was nothing exceptional about it, but something about this ordinary, everyday object interested him. It is this different way of seeing things that allows him to take a photo of something seemingly boring and make it interesting, setting him apart from previous photographers and his contemporaries, like Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander, and Diane Arbus.
"I am at war with the ordinary"