“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.
Eggleston – Oven
Morgana – Pizza in Oven
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.
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.
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.
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
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 – 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
William Eggleston – Imagine Documentary