Text and Image Photography

New Images Photography

William Eggleston Retrospective

Untitled, Eggleston Artistic Trust, courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

These days, there’s no modern art museums you can go to that won’t have something–books, images, exhibitions–by William Eggleston. From LACMA to MOMA he’s there. He’s everywhere–one of the few famous photographers from the mid-twentieth century who’s still around.

A little background on the artist will help you to understand why he is so popular:

Eggleston spent most of his childhood in Mississippi. As a teenager, he attended boarding school, a place where he really never connected because his interest in art was not considered masculine among his peers at the school. Most of his college days were spent at Ole Miss (University of Mississippi), where he discovered his interest in photography. He spent five years there but never received a degree.

Eggleston’s achievements began when he experimented with color photography in the mid-’60s. In 1969, he showed his color snapshots, which he brought in a suitcase, to John Szarkowski of the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). The museum ended buying one of his prints.

While teaching at Harvard in the mid-’70s, Eggleston discovered a process of printing photos—dye-transfer printing—that gave photos the ultimate in color saturation. His photos using this process ended up in a show at MOMA, to much fanfare. The show cemented his position as one of the finest color photographers in the country at the time

One of Eggleston’s most famous images, “Memphis“, c. 1969-70, is a tricycle taken at ground level set in the middle of the frame and occupying most of it with suburban houses  and sky in the background (101 Quick and Easy Secrets Taken from the Master Photographers of the Twentieth Century).

Note in the reading above, it wasn’t only the process of composing banal images of Southern America, that made Eggleston a famous photographer, it was the printing process that he mastered.

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