William Eggleston

William Eggleston (born July 27, 1939, in Memphis, Tennessee, USA) is considered a pioneer of fine art color photography.
Eggleston began his career photographing in black and white at a time when black-and-white photography was starting to be recognized as an art form. Born into a wealthy family, he grew up on his family’s former cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta.
His interest in photography took root while he was studying at Vanderbilt University and the University of Mississippi. He did not complete his degree but worked as a freelance photographer from the late 1950s onwards. In 1964, he settled in Memphis, Tennessee, and started experimenting with color photography. At that time, it was not yet recognized as an artistic form since it was used primarily by amateurs or for commercial purposes.
Eggleston calls his photography “democratic”, which means that he does not prioritize one subject matter over another. For example, his photos depict a farmer’s muddy Ford truck, the red ceiling in a friend’s house, the contents of his own refrigerator, and in his own words are the reverse of a snapshot, namely they are “carefully conceived and confected works of fine art”[1]. In large-format prints, he monumentalizes everyday motifs that depict everyday life and ordinary routines in the American South.
Eggleston gained recognition with his solo exhibition Photographs by William Eggleston at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1976. To this day, the exhibition is considered one of the milestones of photography. Eggleston went on to receive numerous awards, and his work is owned by numerous international museums and art collections.
Eggleston’s photo book Polaroid SX-70 was published in 2019 and is a facsimile of a black leather album of instant pictures compiled by the photographer himself and containing the only photos (56) he has taken in this medium. The Polaroids are rare records of Eggleston’s sun-lit strolls or drives around Mississippi. They complement the bulk of his work which he has produced with color negative film or color slides. The photographs, all of them taken outdoors, show subjects such as a telephone directory, a street sign, a half-empty bottle of Coke in the sun. Although the images are instant, they are as masterfully conceived as the rest of Eggleston’s work.

[1] “[My images] are carefully conceived and confected works of fine art,” he told Art Review last year. https://www.anothermag.com/art-photography/12198/a-rare-glimpse-of-william-eggleston-polaroids-steidl-photography-book

Polaroid book

William Eggleston, Polaroid SX-70, Steidl 2019
ISBN 978-3-95829-503-2