What type of photography does William Eggleston do?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by tom_kondrat, Sep 2, 2021.

  1. And I mean the photographs of the everyday, banal, ordinary things; not the ones with people. Is it street photography, documentary photography, a mix, or something else? What are your thoughts?
  2. Color!
    samstevens likes this.
  3. Not every photo has to be of something significant.
  4. Seriously. Sometimes the “subject” of the photo is something other than the object in it.

    In his early encounter with Eggleston’s work, Szarkowski described it as a suitcase full of drugstore color prints)

    Eggleston talked about his own work in terms like the “democratic camera.” Maybe that’s a good category to label it.

    While it may be hard to slot Eggleston into a one-word category, southern writer Eudora Welty describes it nicely in a few …

    "The extraordinary, compelling, honest, beautiful and unsparing photographs all have to do with the quality of our lives in the everyday world: they succeed in showing us the grain of the present, like the cross-section of a tree.... They focus on the mundane world. But no subject is fuller of implications than the mundane world!"
    inoneeye and Sanford like this.
  5. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

  6. Simon & Garfunkel said it best...
    They give us those nice bright colors
    Give us the greens of summers
    Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah
    I got a Nikon camera
    I love to take a photograph
    So mama, don't take my Kodachrome away
    ericphelps likes this.
  7. Now, all Simon and Garfunkel need to do is write a song about Eggleston’s signature dye transfer process! :)
  8. I think I will set my Fujifilm camera to "Velvia" film simulation mode today and head out into the world.
  9. Snapshots.
    don_essedi likes this.
  10. Does it really matter , and why must everything be categorized ? :D.
    samstevens likes this.
  11. SCL


    I hate forcing categories on photographers. Most fit multiple categories anyway, so I suggest just leaving it at that.
    inoneeye and samstevens like this.
  12. His reply "Often people ask what I'm photographing, which is a hard question to answer. And the best what I've come up with is I just say: Life today."

    "I had this notion of what I called a democratic way of looking around, that nothing was more or less important."

    William Eggleston

    My answer... interesting and significant.
  13. Kitchen sink.
    ericphelps likes this.
  14. William Eggleston could show an enormous variety of large high-class colour prints of familiar, even banal, American subject matter to an American audience most flattered to discover they were surrounded by art which ever way they turned.

    From a photographic technique aspect Eggleston shot a lot of film but had others do the developing and printing. One should also remember that Eggleston was a multi-millionaire to whom any quantity of film and laboratory services, however elaborate, were effectively free of charge. And because he didn't need to work for a living he could use a camera all day every day or smooze with rich friends and important figures in the art world.
  15. He's William Eggleston and y'all aren't. Live with it.
  16. So, we must disrespect an artist who comes from a wealthy family and has the means to pursue a dream? I guess artists supported by patrons are on the chopping block, too. Now, we judge art by the artist’s bank account. Fabulous.

    My understanding is that Eggleston made his own dye transfer prints, but I’m not an Eggleston savant so I could be wrong. My somewhat educated guess is that he had a strong aesthetic influence on the outcome of his prints, regardless. If he didn’t do his own printing, he certainly wouldn’t be the only great and influential photographer who didn’t.

    Let’s give Maris a camera to use “all day every day” and see if Maris comes anywhere near the kind of body of work Eggleston did. Or, as many like to meritlessly claim, let’s give that camera to my six-year-old, who could do as well. On second thought, let’s not!
    Sanford likes this.
  17. Eggleston gave up the 'darkroom' when he started color work. The dye transfer process was very specialized and time consuming. And yes it was extremely expensive. But none of these factors undermine the work and vision required to put it to good use as Eggleston has. As Eggleston proves the vision & process starts before the exposure is made and continues until it is presented.
  18. No! No disrespect to William Eggleston. He is a man of many achievements and possibly his gun collection or his camera collection are marvels beyond the photographic works credited to him.

    But he has been beatified by the art establishment and it is now difficult to look at the pictures except through the heavy filter of praise that has been heaped upon them. Which in a sense does him a disservice because it muddles the question whether the pictures genuinely good in themselves or because of the qualities ascribed to them by others.

    It's a perennial problem in the art world; has been for centuries

    And no disrespect to William Eggleston for being wealthy. Others with access to unlimited funds have followed a similar trajectory: lots of camera work, hire the best to do the rest, move in social circles that include prominent and supportive influencers.

    Think of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Mapplethorpe, Eliot Porter, and Annie Leibovitz taking that path to unchallenged fame.

    And compare this to photographers who did excellent work but got no lifetime celebrity. Think Eugene Atget and Vivian Maier.

    I'd concede there's no moral dimension to all of this. It's just the way fate unfolds.
  19. I don’t have difficulty taking the photos for what they are. Consider that this difficulty may be your issue. How or whether you choose to deal with it is your call.
    Though both were successes and widely celebrated, Mapplethorpe and Leibovitz both faced significant challenges. Their kind of success may seem like an easy and straight path forward, especially to naysayers, but they worked plenty hard and sometimes worked against odds.

    Some of Mapplethorpe’s early work was rejected outright by galleries because of its “pornographic” nature. Even once very successful, he got significant blowback from some African American influencers who felt he was continuing a tradition of objectifying and separating African American men. These are real issues, despite whatever glory anyone thinks he simply reveled in.

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