All it took to convince me was a trip to the Museum of Modern Art in the city. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” William Eggleston’s photographic work was all that and more. His strange techniques and innovative ways are what made him such an influential photographer of his time. There was more to the art than the appeal of one-hour photo printing.
William Eggleston was born on July 27, 1939 in rural Memphis, Tennessee. His engineer father who was a failed cotton farmer, and his mother who was the daughter of a prominent local judge raised him in Sumner, Mississippi. It wasn’t until college where Eggleston discovered his interest for photography when a friend gave him a Leica camera and was inspired by American photographer Robert Frank. Starting off with black and white film, Eggleston started shooting with color in the mid 1960’s; not too long after, color transparency film became his dominant medium. His style of shooting was more simple and geared towards ordinary subject matter such as freezers and McDonalds restaurants. Some said his work was similar to that of a “drug store print” taken by a disposable Kodak camera.
It wasn’t what Eggleston took pictures of; it was how he made his prints that fascinated everybody. He became familiar with the dye-transfer method, which made the color quality of the print overwhelming and very saturated. The colors were more intense and captivating than your standard colored photograph and that’s what made him a revolutionary artist. He found beauty in ordinary scenes that took on a new significance in the rich colors of his photos. He did most of his shooting in rural areas surrounding the Mississippi Delta area and various small Southern towns.
To me, William Eggleston is a photographic genius. I was blown away the first time I had ever seen the picture taken in Memphis, TN 1971 that was just the inside of a freezer....