William Eggleston – The Peculiar Photographer

“Life, today.” – William Eggleston

That’s the answer William Eggleston has been able to come up with when people ask him what he’s photographing. I’ve also been asked that same question many times because I take the same kind of pictures he does. Sounds like a pretty good answer to me.

The oven photo on the left is Eggleston’s, and my oven photo is on the right. I took that picture in my very first photo class in college. I wasn’t even aware of him yet. 

His photos are all of the banal everyday ordinary subjects that most people look at as boring. He can point his camera at some trash in the road and come out with something interesting.

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William Eggleston

As a Southern aristocrat from Memphis Tennessee, many of his photos were taken in the South, in and around Memphis, and they serve as an authentic documentation of his time. I just love that and I also do that with my photography.

The image on the left is Eggleston’s, and the one on the right is mine. I took that in a small town called, Looneyville in my area. It’s down the road from Loco Valley 😂.

It may have taken a long time for people to appreciate his unique view of such “boring and ugly” subjects but eventually he became one of the best and most influential modern photographers. He was a pioneer in elevating both color photography and banal photography in the world of photographic art, and he has a giant collection of compelling images worth looking at. 

Let’s take a look at three of my favorites: The Grill, The Tricycle, and The Red Ceiling.

The Grill

Grill

William Eggleston Memphis c. 1972

From the first time I saw this photo I liked it and I was reminded of so many times when I was standing around a grill with family and friends.

“You must not take anything for granted when you’re looking at a picture. Every single little tiny space on that page works and counts.” – his wife Rosa Eggleston

Every single part of this image works and counts. The lighting, the composition, the fire in the grill, the car, and the bike seem like a boring scene, but it’s full of so many interesting parts of humanity and everyday life. This is a great example of how he elevates the banal to fine art.

The Tricycle

tricycle

William Eggleston Memphis c. 1969

William Eggleston rarely names his photos. Most of them are untitled as far as I’m aware. However, his photos have sparked so much conversation and interest that people have just made names for them.

It can be hard to capture a bike in an interesting way but that wasn’t a problem for Eggleston. He positioned the camera at a low angle so that it makes the bike fill the frame, which makes it bigger and more important than you might originally think. To the kid who rode that bike, I’m sure it was very important.

The Red Ceiling

Red ceiling

William Eggleston, Untitled, c. 1973

I found an interesting article called Perfectly Boring, written by Will Stephenson, that’s worth the read. The section below is directly from the article and it’s from William Eggleston about The Red Ceiling.

“Brenda and T.C. and I were the three people who were lying in bed when I took that picture,” he said. So he did remember that day? “Of course,” he said. “Yes. We were just having a nice time, talking about this and that, talking about nonsense. The three of us lying there in bed—it was a big bed. And I remember one split second I looked up. I thought, that’s a great picture. And then I took the picture. After that, I don’t know what happened.” He closed the book and gave it back to me. “I don’t think anything much happened.”

That’s exactly what happens to me. I’m just hanging out doing normal, “boring” things, and then I see something and think, “That’s a great picture.”

The quotes from Eggleston and his wife were from a five part documentary I watched that you might also enjoy. It showed his large collection of photos as well as a very interesting look at the photographer. William Eggleston – Imagine Documentary Part 1.

William-Eggleston-by-Kevin-Scanlon

William Eggleston – Now

In my next post I’ll share some banal photos I took of a grill, a bike, and a ceiling.

References and Articles Worth Reading

Banality and Cliché in Photography

https://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazine/item/1442-perfectly-boring

William Eggleston – Imagine Documentary

 

Some Pics Around Town

These are just a few pics I took around town and at the park. Pictures 1, 2, and 4 are the main ones I want to share, but I went ahead and added the others too.

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I saw this on the way to the park. I like stuff like this that looks kinda junky or cluttered. I wasn’t planning to stop but then I noticed the No Mattresses sign next to the mattresses, so I decided to pull over and snap a few pictures. I didn’t even notice the security camera when I was there.

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Here it is again using the cross process filter and at a slightly different angle.

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I took this at Pecan Park. This bridge just got added a few years ago and I always want to get a good picture of it, but I never do.

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I liked the colors and the shadow though so I went ahead and snapped a few pics.

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I was trying to get an interesting shadow picture and I used cross process again.

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There’s another using the Retro filter.

Walking Around Downtown Nacogdoches-B&W Photos

Usually downtown Nacogdoches has so much traffic zooming by that I don’t really like walking around taking pictures. It’s just so loud and stressful. But during this coronavirus lockdown, the town has become so much quieter and I was able to take some peaceful walks with my dog and my camera.

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I call it the WoW building, which stands for Woodmen of the World. Built in 1923, it’s one of the popular historical buildings in our area. It’s been photographed so much so I think it’s good to try to think of a creative way to capture it. I like that the building is too dark and I also like that I have three black specs on my lens that showed up in the image. It can be fun to shoot weird angles and let so much of the sky take up the image.

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I like how this one turned out. I like the angles and the way the light and shadow, and black and white alternate.  Another popular photo subject, the Historic Fredonia Hotel. I had some school events there, one in 8th grade for an etiquette class and again for some band competitions in high school. It’s been used for many things. I think it actually closed down for a while and was remodeled and reopened and is doing well again. It was built in 1952 and was called Hotel Fredonia. I think I like how that sounds better than it’s current name.

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Just a door in the back of one of the closed small businesses. I love how doors look. And I really like how the light and shadow turned out. I like how dark the shadows are and how bright the light is.

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Another door at The Best Water Store. I was playing around with the lens flare. Also, I’ve been trying to take more vertical orientation photos.

 

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There’s nothing particularly exciting about this one. I just like how it turned out. I like banal subjects like this and the shadow caught my eye. There were some construction workers to the left shakin their booties to some upbeat Mexican music.

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I was walking along this old historic building and I saw this through the window. I just thought it looked neat.

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Another vertical picture. And I love playing around with overexposing my light and underexposing my shadows. I was also careful to include those power lines in the corner. I really like how it turned out, it’s one of my favorites from that day.

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The last photo I’ll be sharing from that day, and one of my favorites. It’s just a chair with the light casting an interesting shadow.  Right after I took this photo an old truck slowly pulled up next to me and stopped. They took their time rolling down their window, and I have to admit I was feeling a little nervous. It was an old man, probably 80 something. He didn’t speak so I said, “Hello…”

Then he pointed at the business behind me and said in a slow East Texas drawl, “They’re closed…” I giggled and responded that I knew that, then he drove away.