01/11/2016

William Eggleston





To begin my research into work that focuses on exterior/interior spaces I began looking at different photobooks and decided to look more closely at colourist William Eggleston's work, as he is photographer who I find particularly inspiring.

William Eggleston is a very important figure in the history of photography and a pivotal colour photographer, in that he had the first real big colour photography show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976. Despite approaching MoMA with a suitcase full of drugstore prints, John Szarkowsky convinced the board to buy a print of Eggleston's, which eventually lead to his work being exhibited there in a major way. Creating a real watershed moment for colour photography in being accepted into the fine art world. 

I am a big fan of Eggleston's work and think like many others that he is a true master of colour photography. You can really see in his images how he is influenced by abstract expressionism through the intense shades of colours he manages to capture, and the way he is able to compose colours against one another so brilliantly. 


One of Eggleston's most famous images and one of my personal favourites is the photograph above titled Red Ceiling. I find this image particularly intriguing and even a bit sinister, in that it reminds me of the kind of colour aesthetic used in Stanley Kubrick or David Lynch films. The random wires and this intense blood red colour we can see on both the walls and ceiling make this image feel  very uncomfortable, in that there really isn't any context for a viewer. Eggleston has also intentionally included the corner of what I assume is a poster that we can see of illustrated figures demonstrating sex positions. I think the inclusion of this poster adds well to this uncomfortable feeling that a viewer feels when looking at this image. The vantage point this photograph was taken at also feels a bit off in that it suggests either Eggleston has taken this at quite a height, or that the room is rather cramped as we can see a lot of detail in this light without a light shade. In terms of the composition I think the diagonal lines created by the wires and also the weight added with the inclusion of the poster, really helps balance out the elements well and makes for a very effective and striking composition.

What this image demonstrates about Eggleston's work other than his brilliant use of colour and composition, is that although these images are of relatively impersonal subject matter, they still are powerful in offering some kind of story for others to interpret. His framing is particularly effective in adding certain things into the images to aid some kid of narrative that the images could possibly have. A great example of this is in the image above as the shade of orange on this cable matches the red/orange shade that has marked the axe. I think having these elements of the same colour framed into the image is really striking not only aesthetically but in allowing a viewer to paint quite an eery narrative of what might be happening or have happened on this patch of grass that looks like someone's back garden.

The intensity of colours in Eggleston's images are stunning and in this image for example his great understanding of colour theory is demonstrated through the harmony we see between these shades of orange and greens, in that they contrast one another but also compliment each other in terms of the tones in these shades. For example the warm shades of green and orange in the background of the image bring out this very cool toned green shade covering the metal surface in the foreground. Another thing I've noticed about the way Eggleston captures colour is that he makes great use of the golden hour and I believe that is when he takes the majority of his images. Because the lack of light it means that there less contrast between colours, and more texture and tone is revealed in the images.


Eggleston's entire approach to photography fascinates me and one technique of his I find particularly inspiring is the vantage points he uses in his photographs to almost distort perception and create a somewhat surreal framing of the present. In his famous image of the blue tricycle for example Eggleston has used a ground up perspective which makes this tiny trike look huge. It is common when people take photographs that they are stood up and simply point their camera at whatever they want to capture. I think Eggleston uses less human like vantage points to allow us to see the mundane differently. This is powerful in giving a more distorted view of the subject matter that allows a viewer to create their own narrative. For me personally William Eggleston's images are otherworldly and each image seems like another part of a world Eggleston has created.

Seeing these photographs taken by Eggleston in the evening capturing the urban landscape has definitely made me think about the kinds of photographs I could take in the evening. Focusing on artificial lights and shapes.


Images taken from: William Eggleston, 1999. William Eggleston the Hasselblad Award 1998. 1st Edition. Hasselblad Center.


One thing that reoccurs in a lot of Eggleston's work is the use of typography. Words and lettering can not only add something to an image aesthetically but also help the photographer communicate more about their subject matter. As most of Eggleston's images were taken in and around Memphis capturing very ordinary things, the inclusion of typography seems to serve the purpose of offering a characteristic of this place, but in the constraints of being visually interesting enough for Eggleston to be fascinated by it. 


























Looking at the work of William Eggleston has given me a lot of inspiration in terms of the different ways I can capture my subject matter. I now really want to experiment with vantage points, colour and framing to see how much they change how I interpret the subject matter I have photographed. This more fine art and otherworldly approach to capturing the mundane is something I think is really special in Eggleston's work and I do think he captures his subject matter is incredibly unique.

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