What type of photography does William Eggleston do?

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

  1. My motivation behind asking this question was not to try to put a label on Eggleston per se, but to start a discussion about a photography style that doesn't seem to have a name. Recently I made my first YouTube video documenting a behind-the-scenes of my photo walk around Neihu in Taipei (). I wasn't sure how to title it as both street and documentary categories did not fully describe that style of photography. I would argue that this style is like a mixture of those two. The closest work that I could compare it to was the work of William Eggleston (The Democratic Forest - William Eggleston) or Takuma Nakahira (Overflow - Takuma NAKAHIRA | shashasha 写々者 - Delivering Japanese and Asian Photography to the World) - and I am obviously not saying in any way that my photographs are as good, just the style. I feel that calling it street or documentary is misleading, hence my question.
  2. Your OP excluded Eggleston's photos of people. Do you have certain photos of his in mind? I don't think 'documentary' is a style. Any photo of a time and a place will have documented that time and place, whether the photographer intended it to be 'documentary' or not.
  3. A Walker Evans photo of a grocery store is documentary in nature and style. An atmospheric, heavily-shadowed night shot of that same store with lamppost lights reflecting in sidewalk puddles is likely to be film noir in style. The film noir is a more subjective take than the documentary and each is a different style of photographing. The film noir, however, as you say, has an element of also being a document, but that doesn’t mean we can’t understand the two different styles as such.
  4. Documentary "nature" may emerge from a photograph over time no matter the photographer intended it or not, at the point, perhaps, when the object(s) photographed attract viewers' attention more than the photograph itself. I think that occurs over time, seeping in or emerging from, the photograph.

    Eggleston, for me, could see it at the time and place in which the objects photographed were mundane and commonplace. The kitchen sink linked to above is no longer commonplace and mundane in the world of those who would attend an exhibition of his photos.
  5. Kitchen sink!
  6. All I'm saying is that documentary is, among many other things, an understood genre of photography. That all photos may have some elements of documentary to them doesn't change the fact that most of us know what we mean by the genre called documentary photography. It's not German Expressionism, even though I've seen German Expressionist photos that have documentary aspects or qualities.
  7. By the way, I wouldn’t classify Eggleston’s photos as documentary but can see why someone might.
  8. My motivation behind asking this question was not to try to put a label on Eggleston per se, but to start a discussion about a photography style that doesn't seem to have a name.
    Have fun with it and create your own 'name' for it... There's a long history and tradition of creating new categories, labels in photography. And resisting labels ...
    'life today' WE democratic
    I have returned to being a 'naive photographer' TN diarist
  9. Neither would I.
  10. He has written about his photography. He can explain what he is doing a lot better than anyone here probably can. Have you read any of his writings about his work?
  11. ‘Although Eggleston certainly trains his lens on human subjects, in some ways his photography is more about the human environment – the space around the human – than the human subject itself. This is an important sub-genre in street photography.‘
  12. Not necessarily:

    ”Whatever it is about pictures, photographs, it’s just about impossible to follow up with words. They don’t have anything to do with each other.”
    –William Eggelston

    Artists are often the least able to explain themselves or their work.

    That being said, I like reading what they have to say but also like reading what other informed people have to say about an artist's work. They can be very different perspectives and give a well-rounded sense of the person and their work.
  13. Neat quote. Who said it?
  14. Canadian street photographer, Michael Sweet. He continues:

    "Others, like Cartier-Bresson, more seamlessly integrated the human and the environment – his photographs were about both, equally. Others still, such as Cohen or Gilden, focus in on the human aspect almost to the complete disregard of the surrounding environment. All three styles have attracted scores of more contemporary emulators with most street photographers falling loosely into one of these three camps. Regardless of where your focus may be, it is important to be familiar with each of these three approaches to street photography. Eggleston’s Guide is a superb example of how the banality of everyday life can be engaging, poignant, and critical to our understanding of ourselves and our society. It is a must study for any serious street photographer, especially those who prefer to present in color."
  15. Thanks.
    For me, as importantly, how the banality of a subject can be transformed via photography into something interesting and compelling ... because of the nature of photos, because of the instinct and thoughtfulness of the photographer to create a body of work around it, and because of how the seers of photos see and think.
  16. Though I replied to Don above, so his name shows above the quote, obviously that quote is not written by Don, just graciously supplied by him!
  17. Actually, I think he did a pretty good job of talking about it and what it means to him and I'm more interested in that then I am in what let's say John Szarkowski who in many ways helped launched his career had to say about him. But it's all interesting. Szarkowski had a lot to say about him. In any event, Google is your friend. And then there is one's own response to the work. If the OP wants to know what Eggleston's thoughts about it, I would at least start with the horse's mouth. OP might want to look at I believe his forward to Democratic Forest where he talks about photographing "democratically".
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2021
  18. To each their own.
  19. I see the matter of explaining art, and experiencing and understanding it, less competitively and more cooperatively or at least conjointly.
  20. afterward ASX. or afterword as my 1989 copy reads. There is also a tasty link to the ASX channel for other Eggleston work at the bottom of the page.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2021
    samstevens likes this.

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