William Eggleston - his work is not banal at all

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by lar, Mar 16, 2012.

  1. I have recently looked more carefully into William Eggleston's work and have come to the conclusion that, despite the fact that his work is described as being "perfectly banal" it is not banal at all.
    • Eggleston is a master of colour, and therefore a master of light. He knows the light, its changes during the day and the effect on colours. He seems to have put a lot of effort into printing, and I don't know how he does today, since the dye transfer process is no longer available;
    • he is a master of composition. Most of his pictures are a perfect balance of fills and voids. Every tiny space on his pictures "works and counts", as he says;
    • and there are not only colours and composition, he is also a master in highlighting the key element of his photos;
    • also his older black and white photos follow this pattern and you could add colour to them and they would be as effective.
    Of course one might "not like" what he does, but from a more "objective" point of view it is pretty clear that behind his photographs there is a lot of talent and also a lot of "work" in timing, lighting, composing, printing.
     
  2. I really like the way is working with colors, can you give me names of some goods arts books about his work. I always look for them but can't find something really good... Unfortunately, I haven't see his work in real, hope to fin opportunity to see it in real one day. There's not so much things on him in Paris. I've seen the movie about him. I think he was the first to make this kind of work and after lot's of people start to make similar work, that's why people use to say it's banal, maybe ?
    Sorry for my bad english.
    Bye
     
  3. Nico, I'd recommend almost any of his books -- the most recent Chromes is wonderful but very expensive. The re-published Guide is usually recommended as a starter.
    However, I don't care for what's in William Eggleston 5 x 7, particularly his close portraits, but that's probably just me. Luca, have you seen that that one (the book, 5 x 7)? If so, what do you think of it?
     
  4. I love the Chromes it's very beautiful quite expensive but it's a gem.
    I'm not so kind of the guide, I think it's a bit short I prefer a bit larger with more pictures to see :) I have not seen the 5x7.
    I love the William Eggleston: Before Color.
    I'm curious about those one :The Democratic Forest by William Eggleston (Oct 1989), William Eggleston: Spirit of Dunkerue, William Eggleston by Gunilla Knappe, William Eggleston: Democratic Camera; Photographs and Video, 1958-2008 (Whitney Museum of American Art) by Elisabeth Sussman, Faulkner's Mississippi by Willie Morris and William Eggleston (31 Jan 1991), William eggleston - photographie (21 Nov 2001).
     
  5. Luca, perhaps I need to view more of Eggleston than I have, He seems to me to be in color what Michael Kenna is in black and white, presenting extremely well crafted images from the tonal and compositional aspects and his able subject recognition. However, should art not also reveal things that trigger our imaginations, create emotional responses and not just reveal oft viewed subject matter exquisitely presented (ex,. wonderful color balances) but sollicit from us questions about the subjects. That may be old criteria in the realm of art. I am yet to feel that Eggleston is having that effect on me. I wonder if that is not also the reason that some of us might not "like" many of his images.
     
  6. Nico, in my opinion -- and this is very much my own feeling -- The Democratic Forest is fantastic. It's my feeling that it's much edgier, more compositionally exciting than his other books (that I have). By "edgier" I mean ... more violent (?), more aggressive, more immediately dynamic than usual for Eggleston. Again, this is just my personal response to it.
     
  7. Arthur, I find nothing exquisite about the presentation of Eggleston's subject matter. He often triggers in me just the imaginative and emotional responses you say his photos lack.
    THIS ONE reveals its subject matter texturally as found and lost in context.
    THIS ONE reveals and significantly only partially reveals its subject matter through perspective, clarity, and directness.
    HERE the subject is revealed at least partially through gesture, dynamics, and timing.
    There is an internal harmony between the subject matter and the style, the way it's viewed and approached. This, for me, creates a web of interest and gives his subjects a very authentic sense of mystique and wonder.
     
  8. Luca, I actually think banal is a good way to describe Eggleston's work, but like most things photographic and artistic, that requires further explanation. Banal can mean trite and it can mean commonplace. Moving and compelling photos can be made of otherwise trite or commonplace subjects and situations. It doesn't make the photos banal. In the case of the photos I posted just above, these are not subjects that would typically be considered extraordinary. They are things about which people might, especially before Eggleston, ask "Why would you take a picture of that?" In that sense, they are commonplace and so perhaps not as typically photo-worthy as would be a "beautiful" sunset, a gorgeous Hollywood movie star, a grandly-built historic church, etc.
    When I use "banal" relative to Eggleston, I don't mean it negatively. And I think the banality is significant to his vision.
     
  9. it

    it

    Two years ago I was visiting a friend in Memphis and we were driving around town. I said that there was a really famous photographer from Memphis and she said "Big Bill? I grew up with his son, I've known him all my life. Wanna go visit him?" "Uhh, OK". So we drove over to his place while my friend called his son. Apparently Bill was feeling poorly that day so I only made it as far as his parking lot.
     
  10. For me, as a fellow southerner, his pictures seem personal, familiar ... what it feels like but without a narrative. A narrative-less being-there. He always seems to me to deliberately turn his back on narrative; he's not "going," he's there. I don't see what banal (or not) has to do with his pictures.
     
  11. Julie,
    To your question: honestly I only do own Szarkowski's "Guide", but there are really a lot of photos around. And then there are two documentary films, one by Reiner Holzemer and the other by Michael Almereyda.
    I find these very illuminating as to Eggleston's approach to imaging. There are some recurrent patterns: sunrise or sunset, with "horizontal", warm light, wide, very wide spaces, parking lots, the corridors of shopping centres. I found it fascinating to combine the "setting" of Eggleston's imaging with the results.
    I have seen some photos I like a lot, some photos which do not speak to me, such as, for example the "red ceiling". This is certainly an outstanding photo, but I'm not really "punctured" by it.
    There are some pictures just of leaves, trees, bushes, which appeal less to me. But I am aware that this might be just my personal preference. The woman with the chain around the pole, the Gulf sign, are photos I like very much. Many, many out of the "Guide", too. But not all.
    But what I appreciate most is the process, the ability to aim at a result and to put creativity, skill, craft, knowledge at the service of this art.
     
  12. Nico,
    it is difficult for me to suggest one specific book of Eggleston's. A book may contain photos I like and photos I don't.
    From my point of view I would suggest just to explore.
     
  13. Arthur,
    I must say that I see your point perfectly.
    It is perfectly clear to me that if the beholder's desire is to trigger imagination, as you say, Eggleston might not be the most effective author. But the nature of emotional response differs from individual to individual.
    And I wonder whether "the mere pleasure of the eye" isn't just an emotional response, to art. Probably this is quite in the vein of what Fred says. Another adjective associated to Eggleston is "boring", that was pretty often used after his exhibition at MoMA.
     
  14. The best thing about Eggleston, for me, is he has made me come to realize my mother was a great photographer.
     
  15. There may be two possibilities in understanding Eggleston's work (I think it is important to consider it without the "perceptual contamination" of, or dependence upon, prior critiques):
    The first is that he is making the banal look more banal than it really is (This may be important as an approach as many banal things in contemporary society we are already familiar with; therefore he has to go even further to illicit a response from the viewer). In such case, he is acting as a quiet critic of modern lifestyles.
    The second may be that he is seeing something in the banal that is indeed important, that reflects on the human condition or that opens some new approach to the interpretation of images that many of us do not see, supposedly because we may be fixed into some ancient sort of aesthetic/emotional paradigm (and I am not referring here to banal if beautiful sunsets, or not even to admiration/understanding of Atget's evocation of the intrigue of city architecture, Frank's emotional responses, or Strand's delicious urban/rural manmade compositions).
    Too bad I don't know how the man really thinks. I will take a guess though, and suppose that he may be more anchored in the first manner of perception than in the second. The latter may exist, but it is rather opaque.
    Having the temerity to say that, I will also say that exploration and maintaining doubt for me is very important, and I intend to do more looking at his works, with the hope that "looking" will mutate to "seeing" (something significant).
     
  16. Luca A. R.
    I have recently looked more carefully into William Eggleston's work and have come to the conclusion that, despite the fact that his work is described as being "perfectly banal" it is not banal at all.
    • Eggleston is a master of colour, and therefore a master of light. He knows the light, its changes during the day and the effect on colours. He seems to have put a lot of effort into printing, and I don't know how he does today, since the dye transfer process is no longer available;
    William Eggleston does not make (never has) the key pictures credited to him. Many hardworking, talented, creative, and anonymous people do that. There are no money limitations. He can hire the best. And he knows how to raise hell if the results don't support his legend.
    • he is a master of composition. Most of his pictures are a perfect balance of fills and voids. Every tiny space on his pictures "works and counts", as he says;
    • he and there are not only colours and composition, he is also a master in highlighting the key element of his photos;
    • also his older black and white photos follow this pattern and you could add colour to them and they would be as effective.
    Eggleston does a lot of camera work without limitations of time, place, and budget. Immense personal wealth has its advantages. We do not see the thousands and thousands of images that his picture-making workers are simply unable to turn into something supporting the Eggleston "style".
    Of course one might "not like" what he does, but from a more "objective" point of view it is pretty clear that behind his photographs there is a lot of talent and also a lot of "work" in timing, lighting, composing, printing.​
    There may be some minor talent but his status is reinforced by bullet-proof fame that came from being promoted by John Szarkowski who became head of photography at MOMA in 1962. Szarkowski's predecessor, the grand and imperious Edward Steichen, had established photography as a major force in world sensibility via his Family of Man blockbuster to name just one initiative. Steichen's predecessor, Beaumont Newhall, had embedded photography in the on going and glorious tradition of art history via his writings, scholarship, and exhibitions.
    Now Szarkowski had to make his own mark, a dramatic break with the past, and he chose to do it by lionising colour pictures. Of the bodies of work available at the time the output of William Eggleston was enticingly convenient. Eggleston was (and is) an amazingly prolific visual magpie, a multi-millionaire with thousands of off-topic, off-beat, non-traditional images. He also had three qualities that ensure sympathetic reception at MOMA; an American photographer producing images of American subject matter for an American audience.
    The rest is recent history but I think from a long perspective the William Eggleston adventure will be seen as John Szarkowski's biggest mistake. In the meantime there are probably no pictures that William Eggleston could do to become un-famous, un-revered, and un-adulated. Celebrity has its own momentum.
     
  17. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Now Szarkowski had to make his own mark, a dramatic break with the past, and he chose to do it by lionising colour pictures. Of the bodies of work available at the time the output of William Eggleston was enticingly convenient.​

    This "history" is nonsensical.


    By the time Szarkowski brought Eggleston into MOMA, he had made his mark on the world with Arbus, Friedlander and Winogrand. His Bill Brandt exhibition, well before the Eggleston show, was also hugely influential in the world of photography. I am personally quite happy that he brought the show "New Japanese Photography" to MOMA before Eggleston also, as it completely changed the perception of photography in Asia and also had its risks. By the time he did the Eggleston show, he had no need to "make his own mark," it was already done.


    Given that, take the rest of the anti-Eggleston diatribe for exactly what the "history" is worth.
     
  18. Maris Rusis - "William Eggleston does not make (never has) the key pictures credited to him. Many hardworking, talented, creative, and anonymous people do that. There are no money limitations. He can hire the best. And he knows how to raise hell if the results don't support his legend."
    This is one of the biggest and most vile lies I have ever seen on PN. It is malicious, unsubstantiated crap. All of it, including the Szarkowski bits. I'd say what I really feel, but it would get my account deleted.
     
  19. Maris
    Your statements do not really matter. It is actually not important whether Eggleston prints himself or not, it is also not important how much he edits. The really important fact is what he presents, in terms of concepts, compositions or colours.
    Also your remark on John Szarkowski is completely off topic. And off the mark as Jeff Spirer put it.
    I'm not talking about how much money Eggleston is able to put into his art, nor how much he edits.
    I have watched his output, studied his approach and I see talent and skill. I do not like all of his pictures, but this does not really matter. He has a vision and combining composing, recording, processing and printing.
    I am not adulating him - he does not need it - I just studied him. His intentions and approach are clear and there are good results, in my opinion.
    Some pictures may be the result of chance (the red ceiling, for example, or his uncle and servant at the funeral) but there is a clear and coherent approach. The kitchen oven may be weak, but the blue vase on the table is actually very strong. It is obvious that his celebrity has it's own momentum, but there are obvious reasons which show how and why this momentum has come about.
    I am not "in love" with William Eggleston, I was just trying to explain that I found my key to understanding how and why he produces some pictures that I like.
    Your Opinion May Vary.
     
  20. Arthur
    Personally I would take a different approach. He takes the banal and makes it pictorial. I do not want to create confusion here, but Mondrian comes to my mind, Magritte, Beuys, Picasso.
    In any case Eggleston "slices out" bits of life. There is one beautiful picture of a slice of a supermarket and it's sign.
    We might see some criticism there - there definitely can be - but that is pretty much up to us, our sensitivity and perception.
    But you make a really fundamental point: he sees something banal which in fact is really important, and which we do not see.
    Let me also add that my personal feeling is that he's profoundly American, and probably profoundly Southerner.
    Ok, Memphis can be dull, boring and ugly, as many have said when talking about Eggleston's work, but looking at Memphis through Eggleston's eyes, to me it is not dull or boring or ugly at all.
    There are these spaces, this light, the balance of fills and voids. I find it an extraordinary way of presenting the banal.
    Because he has this outstanding capability of taking out slices and show them to us his way.
    Of course you need to be interested in what you see. Obviously this is not the same for all beholders. But if this work strikes some of the beholder's chords, there might be grounds to consider WE a great innovative artist.
     
  21. Photos of the commonplace can make for good images, but that's not an immutable law.
    So even though the subject is banal, the photos needn't be. Henri Cartier Bresson photographed the commonplace and his work is widely considered to be great. But Edward Ruscha's Twenty Six Gasoline Stations leaves me cold, photographically.
    Egglestone's work does seem to have the qualities the o p suggests and do look a lot better than the results obtained by many people who photograph "stuff" and call it "ART."
    I was at the Tate Gallery yesterday and found myself watching a film of a toilet roll middle blowing in the wind. Hmmmm.
     
  22. Maybe I will be famous if I make a still life with toilet roll middles only. No, I don't think so :)

    I find Eggleston's work fascinating. I keep wondering what he was thinking when he made the photos. Surely the man must have a great sense of humor. In some photos I just don't get it. Still it is exiting trying to find out just why he made that photo. What his fascination with the subject was. He has his own, unique style that goes as a red thread through his photos.
     
  23. Luca on Maris - " It is actually not important whether Eggleston prints himself or not, it is also not important how much he edits..."
    While it doesn't matter how much editing a photographer does, the truth does: For the record, Eggleston does not make a huge amount of exposures, and he has almost everything printed.
     
  24. Luca, I agree that the subject matter is important and how he treats it, and it is an important aspect to reconcile in approaching Eggleston's portfolio. It might take some paradigm shift for some of us to appreciate what he is photographing. Yes, subject matter itself need not always be of over-riding importance, but rather the important thing should be how a photographer comes to terms with it, how he deconstructs or recomposes what he sees. It is sort of like, as a music lover but not a musician, I have had trouble approaching the works of Lejaren Hiller, Arthur Honnegger and Pierre Boulez, but once having attempted (and enjoyed) that I can see more than my antennae (of a particular orientation) had first perceived. Another related problem may be our expectations in regard to types of subject matterr. I admit to rarely being impressed by flower photographs (prefering the experience of the real thing), but the works of artists like Georgia O'Keefe and others changed that. I would very much like to see and pass some time at an exhibition of Eggleston prints, though, as with the case of other artists that I have too quickly passed over.
     
  25. You are absolutely right. I have always maintained that Eggleston is the master in revealing the extraodinariness of the ordinary.
     
  26. What is banal? Looking over several definitions I come up with: "Drearily commonplace and often predictable; trite".
    This is not what I think of when looking at an Eggleston print or book. It does say something about photography that the b-word is used so often on W.E.'s work. A lot of photography (and other media) tend to focus on 1) A spectacular subject (Think Peter Lik) 2) A difficult to access one. Look at PN portfolios or those anywhere else, and you're viewing a lot of exotic locations (think time, expense, experience, and physical labor to get there) or subcultures that demand personal sensitivity, more time, etc to gain access. 3) Pictures of people we share genes with or the usual compulsory targets on the street. Those pictures, which comprise the main of the photography world are for the most part illustrations, and often, if not consistenty drearily commonplace, predictable and agonizingly trite, which is not to say they shouldn't be made or that a lot of people derive enjoyment, learn about the world and themselves by viewing/making them.
    Eggleston is an artist using photography, not a photographer. He draws, plays music, designed exclusive and pricey bespoke stereo speakers, and more.
    He used to say that he was "...at war with the obvious", but I see the obvious as his domain. The reason the huge majority of photographers do not see it is because it is common to become desensitized and blind to it. Eggleston isn't.
    As far as books, I am partial to The Democratic Forest, Eggleston's Guide, Ancient and Modern, Los Alamos, and 2&1/4. For some insight into his thinking, read his introduction to Italian luminist/colorist master (and a very conceptual one, at that) Luigi Ghirri's It's Beautiful Here, Isn't it? I believe W.E. was a photographic child prodigy. Some of his earliest family snaps are extraordinary. Some of my favorite works of his are the C-print portfolios. I have had the opportunity to personally look through two of them, owned by a collector I know. Very different color, exquisitely poetic and Quixotically over-reaching. Look on the W.E. site, some can be partially or entirely looked at there.
    One thing to remember when looking at this work is that even though it still seems leading edge, if not revolutionary, it's been around the public realm for thirty-six years. A lot has happened in photography since.
     
  27. Don't know much or keep up with famous photographers, but I get Eggleston's work from what I've seen linked here and through an online search.
    He's just reacting to the strange, alien world we live no matter how banal and civilized looking it appears. I actually have seen and lived in the world his images represent. They look like my family's photo album if they were taken by my drunk uncle.
    The image links Fred posted look like the places I grew up and the color of my grandmothers Brownie Hawkeye prints would capture sans the image with the sexual positions poster in the background. Funny he focused on the multi-plugged light fixture and not the poster, but that's what makes it even more interesting. There seems to be a weird story behind most of Eggleston's images. I don't think I've even seen any famous artist's paintings illustrate what he captures.
    I imagine David Lynch was inpired by his work.
     
  28. "You can always tell a William Eggleston photograph. It’s the one in color that hits you in the face and leaves you confused and happy, and perhaps convinces you that you don’t understand photography nearly as well as you thought you did.” Straight to the point in a few words. (The New Yorker)
     
  29. I imagine that David Lynch was inspired by lysergic acid diethylamide.
     
  30. I imagine that David Lynch was inspired by lysergic acid diethylamide.​
    And you'ld know the difference from that how?...
     
  31. Ann,

    I read the whole New Yorker article. Could you translate it into English for me, please?

    I know what all the words mean, but I don't think it actually said anything.

    I'll read it again, maybe I should run it through Babelfish though. This whole thing is like an inside joke, and no one is
    willing to let me in on it, it's frustrating.
     
  32. "And you'ld know the difference from that how?..."

    While LSD is only on my bucket-list and have never experienced it, I do know what delirium, hallucinations and lucid
    dreams are like. I imagine that the experiences are similar, LSD just seems to me more practical and convenient than a
    104 fever for creative purposes.
     
  33. I guess Eggleston really is one of us...
    http://www.myspace.com/egglestonwilliam
     
  34. Richard, one of your images in your gallery...
    http://www.photo.net/photo/14703755
    seems to indicate you've been a bit inspired by Eggleston as well or maybe just been bitten by some hallucinogenic venomous bug.
    Since you've made the connection between hallucinations and lucid dreams to Eggleston's work, I take it you get what he's communicating. ...mmh, life is but a dream or nightmare depending on your POV? Maybe?
     
  35. Richard, it is possible, though implausible, that thousands of people are perpetuating an impossibly elaborate and costly fraud, engaging in a vast conspiracy regarding Eggleston. Or maybe you just don't/can't get it. It's allowed. In 1976, practically the entire photo establishment save for two critics and a handful of others didn't get it either.
    Regarding David Lynch, he credits Transcendental Meditation.
     
  36. It's even possible for someone to get it and not like it. But to insist, snarkily, that those who do like itneed to somehow convince or prove to those who don't that Eggleston is really worthwhile is just plain ridiculous. No one owes another viewer anything. We each owe whatever photographs we desire a good look and a chance. That's it. If a viewer can't understand what a critic is saying, maybe he should take a course in criticism at the local college . . . or, just stop reading photography criticism.
     
  37. Tim,

    I was referring to David Lynch.

    The Philco TV is just a snapshot at an antique store, and not a very good one. I was thinking of buying it and using it as a
    prop for what is actually in my mind for it. That money is going in the D800 piggy bank now.
     
  38. "Richard, it is possible, though implausible, that thousands of people are perpetuating an impossibly elaborate and costly
    fraud, engaging in a vast conspiracy regarding Eggleston."

    Luis,
    That's plausible to me. And not just with Eggleston, there are plenty of famous artists who are good only because people
    say they are good. Especially when those first saying that it's good have $$$ to gain from the deal.

    I really don't get it. Most of his pictures do look just like my Mom's snapshots from the 60's and 70's to me.

    It's possible that there is a complete mistranslation to digital. I have never seen the pictures personally, and I do know that
    can make all the difference.

    I look at Red Ceiling and I really do see haphazard composition and an electrical fire waiting to happen. It really looks like
    a building inspector's or fire marshall's Polaroid snapshot(aside from the dimension ratio).

    I don't have a problem changing my opinion, and if there is a showing, on this side of the country, of his pictures I will
    surely make a reasonable effort to attend and view them personally with my eyes.
     
  39. In the shots Fred linked to, it sure looks to me like the subject is revealed in the center of the photograph. By placing the subject in the center of the photograph: that is how the viewer is to know what the subject indeed is. I'll have to try that.
     
  40. It's very telling to hear the perspectives of those who don't like or don't get or wish to mock Eggleston or the rest of us. Telling only about them.
     
  41. You don't have to try so hard, Richard, and you don't have to get anything. If you are convinced that you "don’t understand photography nearly as well as you thought you did," your are in good company :)
     
  42. Telling only about them.​
    Yep.
    Still:
    Quoted by Freeman, who of course has his own taste and bias, Eggleston on wandering around Oxford, MS: "it was one of those occasions where there was no picture there. It seemed like nothing, but of course, there was something for someone out there." Freeman: "He aimed the camera at the ground and began 'taking some pretty good pictures.' Later, over dinner, a friend asked him what he had been doing all day and he replied, 'Well, I've been photographing democratically'."
    I just don't know what to say except that there is controversy and Eggleston seems to have a sense of humor about it all.
     
  43. Luca, if by "banal" one means the ordinary and commonplace, yes, Eggleston took pictures of ordinary, day-to-day things. If by "banal" one means that his work is therefore "trite," then his work is hardly that.
    The problem is that "banal" has more than one possible connotation. "Trite" implies a derogatory connotation, but "everyday" or "ordinary" do not necessarily have the same negative connotation.
    --Lannie
     
  44. I look at Red Ceiling and I really do see haphazard composition and an electrical fire waiting to happen. It really looks like a building inspector's or fire marshall's Polaroid snapshot(aside from the dimension ratio).​
    The first thing that ran across my mind when I first saw that image (and it is the first I've ever seen of any of Eggleston's work) was...
    "What kind of person/people paints and/or lives surrounded by blood red painted walls and ceiling and displays a sexual position diagram poster on their wall? What sort of shady activity are these people involved in?"
    To me it suggests a seedy, dark and disturbing nature of the occupants. It's downright creepy in a "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" sort of way. That's the story. The photo got me to wonder about this. But Eggleston toys with the viewer in communicating this through concealment and redirection in his framing and choice in composition.
    I'm thinking he felt the same as I did. He could've taken a shot of the entire red room, but that would've been too obvious, so he ends up playing a sort of peek-a-boo with the viewer by focusing attention on the silliest, mundane thing in the room and that being the over taxed light fixture outlet turned into a power strip as if that's the worst thing the viewer should be concerned about which it isn't. The red walls and the sexual position poster which is partly hidden and barely makes in the picture IS WHAT'S TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT. He hides it as a tease.
    It's the "Don't pay any attention to the man behind the curtain" type of concealment through composition. Where are those wires leading to and what and how many other devices in the room are using up the available wall outlets that require turning a regular single bulb fixture into a Christmas tree assembly?
    Now look how many words I used to describe what I felt and went through my mind for the first time viewing one Eggleston image. I'ld have to assume that's why he's considered such a really good photographer. Or maybe I'm reading too much into it? Everything I've pointed out is made pretty obvious in the image where all I had to do is look.
    The fact you didn't pick up on this in the image and just focused on the light fixture as a fire hazard suggests you either looked at the image with a "my kid could do that" judgmental eye or you just didn't look, REALLY LOOK at the entire image and then questioned it.
    I've come across images where I had the same attitude and just didn't get it, but Eggleston is different. He is directing the viewer in a very clever and subtle way using color, subject matter and composition that is quite unsettling and somewhat humorous using the banal and mundane as a sort of slight of hand.
     
  45. Now look how many words I used to describe what I felt and went through my mind for the first time viewing one Eggleston image.​
    Tim, I am moved by your ability to articulate things about this photo. It proves how utterly wrong is the crowd who claims a photo must just be there to be appreciated, that speechlessness is the only proper response. It's nice to see your feeling and your intelligence and your ability to describe in concrete terms what you see and feel put to such genuine use. Honestly, thanks!
     
  46. Fred - "Telling only about them."
    True.
    Tim, that was a good, open and honest exploration of the image.
    Eggleston's worked with film all the way through. He was sent samples of the top models of digital DSLRs by the manufacturers who were hoping he would like and use their products, but he stuck with film.
     
  47. Thanks for appreciating my appreciation of that image Fred and Luis. Thought it might've went too long but it's rare I come across an image I can dissect like that.
    I'm not even sure if Eggleston intended all that I derived or if he planned the setup. Who knows what he was thinking when he took the shot so long ago. It might've been just a casual random lucky snap that wound up looking like that. Don't know if he's that lucky in the rest of his shots which I've been culling through online.
    I'm trying to find other shots of his where he conceals and redirects to tease the viewer. Those I've found so far just offer his seemingly trademark unsettling, creepy ambience within a parallel world kind of vibe which still isn't easy to pull off in a photo.
     
  48. Thank you, Tim.

    Cool.
     
  49. I'm not even sure if Eggleston intended all that I derived or if he planned the setup.​
    I think most really good artists' intentions are not clear and distinct or even very locatable. The stuff you talk about may very well be there and Eggleston himself might or might not recognize these things. But it's doubtful that he formed direct intentions to do all that. Instead, I think his vision, his experience, his influences, his own creativity allowed that stuff all to get put into the mix. Some of it the viewer, you or I, makes up, hopefully based on what Eggleston has provided us. That stuff is often as valid as whatever the artist or photographer might say about it as well.
    Sometimes stuff is there and it's there because of the photographer and his vision, but it wasn't specifically intended. I think it often happens much more loosely than that.
    _______________________________________
    I think the way to assess the matter of luck is to look through a photographer's body of work, as you are doing. If you start to see a consistency of vision or approach, something that seems to hold the body of work together, you can be pretty sure it wasn't just random luck even if there weren't specific intentions formed about each shot.
     
  50. [Disclaimer] I don't mean to imply that artists don't, in many cases, have very specific intentions regarding a particular photograph, painting, etc. I think sometimes those intentions are quite directly and consciously formed. But I think other stuff gets into the work as well, based on who the artist is and how he sees the world. I think there can be great control and also great loss of control of these things. And I think there are some core ideas or emotions in a work which can be expressed and taken in many different directions by viewers, even if it is those core things from the artist that initiate the viewer's response and guide it.
     
  51. Tim - true enough. I'm saying to myself that room reminds me of some childhood friend's first apartment whose mind had gone awry. The hair lady - makes me cringe to be reminded of those who in those days seemed as though frozen in time. So personally, I don't like to be reminded of scatterings or stasis. I have enough of that to deal with, in pictures it doesn't interest me, I don't want to think about it more than my real life already demands. Give me a puppy pciture, I can deal with that!
     
  52. I think the way to assess the matter of luck is to look through a photographer's body of work, as you are doing. If you start to see a consistency of vision or approach, something that seems to hold the body of work together, you can be pretty sure it wasn't just random luck even if there weren't specific intentions formed about each shot.​
    Fred, I believe that what you said here is very essential. Until a photographer finds his/her own unique way of making photos, they will just be copying other photographers work, and there will be no consistancy in what they do. When they are convinced that what they do is right for them, their work will show it.

    And like you say: The intentions behind each shot might not have been very specific, but it is how the mind of the photographer works when he knows what he is doing. Sometimes a photo can be great even if the photographer wasn't 100% aware of every aspect of the composition when the photo was made.

    A photo made by an experienced and skilled photographer that knows exactly what he/she is doing, is almost like a signature. There is a consistency in what catches their eye and almost compels them to make the photographs. That consistency can be recognized by the viewer. If the consistency is not recognized, "the body of work" can be difficult to relate to by the viewer. But the viewer can still relate to and find individual work great.
     
  53. Tim's description of the "red ceiling" is extremely accurate. I must say that it's not the ones of WE I like most, maybe
    because the "human element", which is there, is in the end very well concealed.<br>
    This picture conveys a certain anxiety.<br>
    By the way, red is one of the favourite colours of WE, who in an interview said "I was lying with my friend and his wife on
    his big bed, talking. Suddenly I saw the ceiling, took my camera and snapped the picture".<br>
    No posing or staging, therefore.
    <br>
    But considering the environment in which he lived, and in particular the relationship with his friend TC, this scene is not
    surprising. TC was a dentist, a character, who apparently used drugs and who was murdered with an axe. And the house
    set on fire.<br>
    It was WE's environment which contained these uncommon and uncanny elements. He recorded them in this
    extraordinary way.<br>
    Martin Parr says of him "he's a quirky character".<br>
    The "red ceiling" is a photo perfectly reflecting Eggleston's being, existence, way of living, philosophy of life.
     
  54. "The "red ceiling" is a photo perfectly reflecting Eggleston's being, existence, way of living, philosophy of life."​
    Luca recognizes what is important in perceiving the image in regard to what is known about Eggleston, his attitudes and his life. All that can or does add to our appreciation of an image. Similarly, my experience when perceiving another very different image, "La Source", of Ingres, was enhanced by a bit of knowledge about the painter's life and his age and state of his art when painting it and the very perceptive analysis of the painting provide by Arnheim in one of his books. But mainly, I think, we are or should be on our own during viewing, if we are confident of our art experience and capabilities.
    Fred mentioned, which Ann cited, "Until a photographer finds his/her own unique way of making photos, they will just be copying other photographers' work." I also agree with that oft considered qualification and I believe that it is important to our own evolution of an approach and aim in photography. There is I think a corollory or extension to that statement, and it may go something like this: Until a viewer applies his own intellectual, aesthetic, emotional and sensorial criteria to evaluating a photograph, will he/she obtain a true reading of the work, rather than that of other viewers, however popular or credited are the latter.
    Art fills at least a partial vacuum, not because nothing is already there, but because we have an insatiable appetite for new experiences that are provided by artists who have equal appetites and for whom the status quo is not the solution. The red ceiling was also my own first experience of Eggleston. I didn't find it trite at all. I might have been inclined to call it banal in its sense of ordinary, but as someone who looks for meaning presented in ordinary things and other details of our existence, I didn't find it ordinary at all. Not like a red fire hydrant or red mail box might be, unless the latter were placed in a particular more intriguing or challenging context than usual. I sensed the co-habitation of an imperfect wiring with a passionately red ceiling and the apparently random directions of the wiring (to where, why?), that together suggested a tension. Only later, when Tim mentioned his perception, did I go to the less visible borders of the image and recognised the Kama-Sutra style drawings, which considerably reinforced the red of the ceiling and its symbolism of passion or other strong emotions. I like that. Does the wiring going off in different directions suggest a sort of dissipation, a sort of comment on the society or persons which the red room reflected? I had seen and photographed ceiling wiring fairly similar to this beforehand (but only two branches and not three) and less powerful than Eggleston's image, positioned on a very ordinary dirty cream white ceiling of an inexpensive country hotel. This allowed a certain empathy for what he was doing. My feelings about his much more potent image are not yet fully crystallised. Do I need to know the history and life of Eggleston and his friends? For me, not really.
    What is important, I think, is that we develop our appreciation for art and life sufficiently to be able to stand on our own two feet when viewing new images and not to be "overly" dependent upon the views of others. We don't often depend upon those other views when we spontaneously go out to a concert, see a new film or sample new and fine food. Our own senses in those cases normally prevail over those evoked in the statements of others.
    When we say to someone that "they don't get it", I think we must be careful to remember that in some cases their abilities to perceive the value of a work may be as great and as intelligently applied as ours, or even as relevant as the positions put forward in the prior positive critiques.
     
  55. Ann Overland - "A photo made by an experienced and skilled photographer that knows exactly what he/she is doing, is almost like a signature"
    I am interested in exactly what is meant by: "knows exactly what he is doing". Do you mean technically?
    I'm not in agreement with the idea that one has to find their uniqueness and the rest will follow. Eggleston is not like you and me in very significant ways. If the photos don't convince you, look at his video Stranded in Canton. Un-PC as this will sound, I'll say it: All men are not created equal. It's not his wealth. There are millions of wealthy photographers. Those here who think they could have been Egglestons had their families only had the money are sadly mistaken. It could be put more indelicately, but I'll leave it at that.
    The world, and the American South in particular (and I've lived there most of my life) is rife with characters who are also not mainstreamers. People who didn't make the choices you did, desire what you sought, etc., or become what you became. While many will look down upon TC the dentist, his wiring, interior decorating choices, drug use or Eggleston's twice-as-bright life, they forget that those lives also had glories and some positive outcomes most here cannot imagine.
    Most of W.E.'s "environment", certainly the outdoor stuff, is hardly "uncanny" or "uncommon". Eggleston goes to a place I lived in for over a decade, and in a few days comes up with a trove of images unlike any I or any photographer I knew of there ever made. He goes to Paris and returns with a Paris like no other. Or Dunkirk, Egypt, Berlin the American West, etc. It's not about where he is, but about who he is.
     
  56. It’s interesting that whenever William Eggleston comes up in a discussion about photography there always seems to be a strong polarization of opinions. For me the main point is that the creative expression of any person is their “art.” When I look through the folders of the myriads of photographers here on this site what I am seeing is the creative expression of all these people. The thoughts, theories, experimentation’s, subconscious motivations, conscious efforts, etc. presumably all go into the creative expression of any individual no matter what medium they are using. Hence, it is immaterial what Eggleston was thinking about or trying to do with his photography. It is simply his art. The fact that his photographs look a lot like the pictures taken by someone’s mother is immaterial as well.
    Back in 1969 I was taking a photography class in college, and the assignment was portraits. I was shooting Ektachrome at the time, 35mm. I did a series of portraits of my friend Bill and had the roll developed. To my surprise, when I examined the developed slides I realize that I had used to the same roll on which I had already shot a bunch of random photos, so that I now had 24 slides that had portraits of Bill superimposed with random landscapes and household objects. Some of them turned out to be rather interesting, so I presented them to the class as if I had done the whole thing on purpose. Well, the reaction of my classmates and professor were that they were quite impressed by my creativity. I, of course, did not mention that this was all a big mistake, but instead I enjoyed some notoriety as the most avant-garde student in class. If I had chosen at that juncture to continue to experiment with the superimposition of images on slide film, which would have been conscious choice at that point, I could have gone in this direction for a long time, making 16 by 20 prints of superimposed images, and that would’ve been my “art.”
    The point is Eggleston has his own motivations for doing the types of photos that he does. If the art world finds his work fascinating and worthy of praise it means that he has “touched a nerve” (or many) somewhere to get these reactions. I suspect that maybe it’s because his work is so polarizing that it gets the attention that it does.
    00a9ps-451217584.jpg
     
  57. so I presented them to the class as if I had done the whole thing on purpose​
    Steve, it was you who thought to present it to the class as you did. I think that matters, doesn't it? Another person would likely have tossed it all and forgotten about it. That you took all the shots matters as well. That all makes it in at least some significant ways not just a mistake. And besides, happy accidents happen to the best and most intentional and conscious of artists. It's part of the deal. Good artists almost can't avoid them. But that doesn't mean your intentions don't matter. I think artist's intentions matter very much, both to the artists and to the viewers. They are not the ONLY thing that matters, by any means. But they can be very much a part of the work and that can happen from the making to the viewing.
    Viewers can be fooled all the time. I don't read too much into that. It's kind of an outlier and doesn't really prove anything to me. There are all those blogs where great photos of renowned photographers are shown and they get negative critiques. I take all that with a grain of salt.
    .
    When I look through the folders of the myriads of photographers here on this site what I am seeing is the creative expression of all these people.​
    Boy, not me. I see a lot of unthoughtful photographs and snapshot-like pictures. A lot is neither expressive nor creative, IMO.
    .
    I suspect that maybe it’s because his work is so polarizing that it gets the attention that it does.​
    Definitely something to consider. An important point. I tend to think differently, though. Some great work is polarizing and other great work is not. Some mediocre and even some really awful stuff (for example, pornography) is polarizing as well. Doesn't make it creative or art or worth much attention. I don't know Eggleston's history well and should look into it more carefully, but I suspect his art was recognized before it was polarizing. I suspect the polarizing came later. One of the reasons I'm skeptical of this idea is that I've seen many critique pages here on PN that garner a lot of very different kinds of reactions. Someone inevitably comes along and says that all the reactions and so many comments means it must be great art. I don't buy that for a second. I know you're not quite saying that, but it's one of the reasons I don't see polarization as a sign that something is worthy of artistic attention.
     
  58. creative expression of all these people.​
    Creative expressions yes. Art: all art is creative expression, not all creative expression is art.
    I see a lot of unthoughtful photographs and snapshot-like pictures.​
    Which when said of W.E. is controversial, a matter of opinion.
     
  59. Charles, you may have misunderstood me. I don't think saying that WE's photos are unthoughtful or snapshot-like is controversial. As a matter of fact, I welcome serious and mature criticism of even my favorite photographers. It's the mocking and dismissive tone that a few here adopted, as if to say if they didn't like someone's work it just shouldn't even be taken seriously. I have actually critiqued in some detail and with much appreciation by the photographer work that I consider unthoughtful and snapshot-like, because I think most people who are trying aren't there yet but can find a voice. Sometimes all that's needed is a nudge. But I do try to take photographers I critique seriously. I know my own work has been critiqued by some fine photographers who approach critique similarly to the way I do and I've appreciated their feedback immensely, both sincerely honest negative and positive feedback.
     
  60. Steve Murray - " I suspect that maybe it’s because his work is so polarizing that it gets the attention that it does."
    What do you think makes his work polarizing?
    Steve - " When I look through the folders of the myriads of photographers here on this site what I am seeing is the creative expression of all these people. The thoughts, theories, experimentation’s, subconscious motivations, conscious efforts, etc. presumably all go into the creative expression of any individual no matter what medium they are using. "
    That's not what I see. I see lots of emotional atrophy, servility to acceptable cliche's, emulation of signifiers and generic images.
    Perhaps what a photographer thinks is immaterial to you and others. While I do not pretend to know what others think, I'm interested. Otherwise I wouldn't be here.
     
  61. "That's not what I see. I see lots of emotional atrophy, servility to acceptable cliché’s, emulation of signifiers and generic images."​
    Luis, I have been looking for your comments on the photographs of those who seem to respond with some sincerity to this post, but - and excuse me if I am in error - I have not seen your critiques in their portfolios. If what you state above is the case, I think many would be happy to profit from your specific critiques, your experience and your knowledge.
    Unfortunately, when seeking some enlightenment in forums dedicated in part to photographic approaches (as this one and the philosophy forum) and art value, we often only see lots of defense of the photographic art establishment (albeit not a static category) by the equivalent of "you don't get it" (not necessarily your specific words, but a not uncommon phrase here) or a more positive but general statement. The posters you are referring to venture to question, and I presume with some intellectual honesty, the value of the works of those of the establishment and the question of what makes those works very special. Instead, what is often delivered to them is some general personal response or some anecdote about the photographer’s life. It would be of real value-added, I think, to see some qualitative yet rational explanation of what those photographers might be missing in perceiving/seeing those works. Everyone can benefit from enlightenment on the qualities of superior images, rather than facing an apparently condescending attitude to those of differing evaluations of the artistic value of certain works popular in the art world.
    Perhaps the "great unwashed" among the photographers of Photo.Net, many of whom I think are trying to progress in their art (as is evident in a number of portfolios), should benefit from constructive comments on their work, and why it may possess emotional atrophy, servility to acceptable clichés and emulation of signifiers and generic images, or other apparent clichés of approach. That might be more useful than general comments that are probably more appropriate to the general public that have a camera, than to those committed to the medium of expression but who perhaps haven't found an approach that is them and has some uniqueness to it.
    I agree with you that those characteristics exist and also with what you often say about the aesthetics and the place and importance of photographic art. If I didn't, I wouldn't bother to challenge you on the above questions.
     
  62. Luis said:
    That's not what I see. I see lots of emotional atrophy, servility to acceptable cliche's, emulation of signifiers and generic images.​
    My answer is that many photographers here are not particularly good artists, or well trained, or creative etc. That does not matter to me. What matters is that they are making an effort to express themselves. Lots of people play the guitar or piano, or sing in choirs and are not particularly good, but it means a lot to them to be expressing themselves in some way. I'm not saying I see great art, by any means. Your judgement here seems rather presumptuous in that everybody here needs to be performing at a certain standard set by people like you!
    Why do I think Eggleston's work is polarizing? Well, just look at the posts in this thread!
     
  63. What matters is that they are making an effort to express themselves.​
    Steve, I think many people are not. And I've heard many photographers say as much quite adamantly as a matter of fact. If you remember both Don E. and John Kelly, they were quite vociferous about not using photography to express themselves, often heatedly so. Some photographers are simply recording, intentionally or unintentionally so, and they say as much. Many are taking travel shots and family shots which are more a matter of preserving memories than self expression. Many, many, many are trying to make pretty pictures, especially ones that they and others will like. Sometimes there is expression in those and often there is not.
     
  64. I appreciate your comments, Fred. About my 1969 story, yes, you are correct, I did recognize the serendipitous fortune in my "mistake" and recognized the value in it. As I stated, I could have gone on from there and done more of this genre as my "art."
    About people expressing themselves: Maybe we are using different definitions. Being a counselor by profession, I live by the dictum: "a person cannot "not" express him or her self." A person sitting in group and not saying anything is certainly "saying something" if you get my drift. To me any time you focus the camera at something and press the shutter, its says something about you, whether you want it to or not. I guess some people are denying that they are expressing themselves. Ha!
     
  65. Steve, doesn't it dilute the meaning of self expression or expressing oneself to make it so ubiquitous? I have to think there's a big difference between someone simply recording something or preserving a memory and someone actively achieving a different level of artistic self expression. Likewise, there's a big difference expression-wise between sitting in a room with one's mind meandering and actively expressing one's innermost feelings. If we don't call only the more conscious and more active thing "expressing oneself," then there should be another word or phrase for it. And whatever that is is NOT happening with a lot of people using cameras. I also think there's a difference between expressing oneself and expressing oneself artistically. Oh, but that one would get us mired for days!
     
  66. Arthur - " I have not seen your critiques in their portfolios. If what you state above is the case, I think many would be happy to profit from your specific critiques, your experience and your knowledge."
    Arthur, I agree with you, but do not do critiques here, never have, and have said so in the past. I do not do short 2-3 liners, except in a non-critique commentary in a post or mail. Mine run long (as some here well know from reading them elsewhere) take time and energy, and I do not have enough of either to do that here as well. From what I read, there are plenty of run of the mill, adequate peer critiques one finds for free in this type of site. I do look at photos here, and with the numbers of images in question, a small minority, but what I said is still what I largely see. I specifically did not say that 100% fit that description. There are exceptions, and I've remarked on that in the past. I would like to make it clear that I would not restrict my comments to PN hobbyists, but also to pros and to a lot of other places on the web that I have seen -- and a lot of my own work as well. It's my opinion of what I largely see, nothing more. Having said that, there is a tiny amount of good (and better) work about here and elsewhere. On vetted or expertly run sites the percentage escalates.
    Steve Murray - "My answer is that many photographers here are not particularly good artists, or well trained, or creative etc. That does not matter to me. "
    It does to me when we're talking about art, as in this post. What I was not saying is that the work that I commented on is negative, worthless or a waste of time. It is all to the good, whether from the weekend duffer, family chronicler, aspiring pro or artist etc., and I welcome every single image. Its human measure is of great value. On this I did not disagree with Steve, but that's not all I see.
    SM - "Your judgement here seems rather presumptuous in that everybody here needs to be performing at a certain standard set by people like you!"
    Not even close, Steve, though I appreciate your effort. It was and is what I see. That's all. I don't care to affect/control what they -- or you -- do, nor do I have any expectations. If I did, I'd be doing unasked-for critiques here, but I am not. It's naive to think that what I said is an attempt to control anyone.
    Photography, like many things (and not just art) is very easy to do at certain levels, impossibly difficult at others. Of value at any level.
    Last, what I was asking Steve about the "polarizing work" was about whether the work itself is inherently polarizing, or its viewers are. I think it is the latter.
     
  67. Fred said:
    there's a big difference between someone simply recording something or preserving a memory and someone actively achieving a different level of artistic self expression.​
    Maybe this is why Eggleston's photos get so many reactions. To some, he is "simply recording something" and to others he is "actively achieving a different level of artistic self expression." How do we ever know? I have to assume the latter, even if it looks like he is just taking casual snaps of common events and scenes. This is his art, his self-expression, and to me that is valid. Very clever, this Eggleston. I read in one interview with him in which he claims he doesn't even use the view finder, but just points the camera in the direction of the scene. We don't know if he is pulling the leg of the interviewer or telling the truth. Again, in one way he is making it clear "it is what it is."
     
  68. How do we ever know?​
    We look. We think. We feel. We intuit. We empathize. We listen. We read. We check out the full body of work. We look again. Viewing openly, carefully, intelligently, and feelingly is as deep an endeavor as is creating good art.
     
  69. Louis, I didn't mean just technically. I meant exactly the same as you do. The photos are a signature of the photographer when they are doing it in their own style. And their own style comes from making art according to who they are. They are true to their own ideas and convictions.
     
  70. Steve Murray - " We don't know if he is pulling the leg of the interviewer or telling the truth."
    How do we know you are not yanking our leg? Or just being clever?
    _____________________________________________
    Ann, thanks for clarifying that.
     
  71. Steve Murray - " I read in one interview with him in which he claims he doesn't even use the view finder, but just points the camera in the direction of the scene."
    Lots of people shoot from the hip. If one was interested in this, there's what W.E. says, what people who were there (witnesses) report, and the documentaries showing him at work. It is also naive to assume that any photographer must work in one mode or use one camera his entire life. Eggleston hasn't.
     
  72. It seems to me that William Eggleston is so controversial because it is quite challenging to understand what he does.
    At a first, superficial glance one might think that he is "simply recording something" (someone making fun above said that "The best thing about Eggleston, for me, is he has made me come to realize my mother was a great photographer").
    But there are two wrong statements here:
    • he does not record "simply". Actually his recording is quite sophisticated, in respect to composition, lighting, and printing;
    • he does not record "something": he carefully selects what he records and how he records it.
    In the Holzemer documentary film his wife states that WE once said "you must not take anything for granted on this page [photo]. Every single tiny space works and counts".
    Just considering the apparent simplicity of the picture the viewer could think it looks trite, or drearily commonplace and predictable. But actually Eggleston's compositions are pretty sophisticated.
    The issue is that it takes an educated eye to look beyond the simplicity and see the sophistication.
    Eggleston's compositions (every tiny space works and counts) are too careful to think that he shoots from the hip.
     
  73. Luca - "It seems to me that William Eggleston is so controversial because it is quite challenging to understand what he does."
    It's not hard to understand for everyone. A lot of it has to do with defying 1960's-70's photographic convention, which was the mentality of the vast majority of photographers at the time, and from what I read here, apparently still is. Eggleston was an artist, before taking up the camera. A painter, and although it is not widely known, he has always painted.
     
  74. Luis,
    I agree. And there are significant pictorial characteristics in his photos.
    When he praises Cartier Bresson he notes his obvious knowledge of painting.
    I am also aware of the breakthrough in the 1970's when "serious photography" was in black and white.
    What I was referring to are today's critics, like the one I quoted above on the comparison with his mother's photographs. Some people tend to oversimplify.
    Understanding also means knowing how to watch and what to watch.
    And that's not for granted.
     
  75. http://www.egglestontrust.com/ Portfolis - Seven
    It is in that example of WE's work that I also see "...lots of emotional atrophy, servility to acceptable cliché’s, emulation of signifiers and generic images."
    That's just me. We are free to see whatever we want. The controversy derives from what must be a fact: that some are wired to get more out of pretty than conceptual. No amount of education is going to make me like those examples of WE's work. I can be educated into appreciating that others see value in his work, are stimulated and inspired by it. That's great, that another point of view, as valid as mine, yet so different, exists!
     
  76. Well, Charles, you're partly right. From articles I read in your link states that back in the mid '60's WE thought it was a great idea to glorify mediocrity using the new mass produced photographic color process...
    For Eggleston, this confrontation with visual mediocrity was an altogether exciting and unforgettable experience and was to become an important basis for his later work.
    During various visits to the shopping centers which were now springing up all over the country, Eggleston succeeding in combining color photography with ordinary, everyday impressions and, in so doing, defined the essential elements of the original approach to color photography in the twentieth century.​
    From this article...
    http://www.egglestontrust.com/hasselblad_weski.html
     
  77. Thanks Tim. Interesting.
     
  78. Charles Wood - "It is in that example of WE's work that I also see "...lots of emotional atrophy, servility to acceptable cliché’s, emulation of signifiers and generic images."
    and..." No amount of education is going to make me like those examples of WE's work."
    Like/dislike has nothing to do with this thread, and no one, least of all me, is trying to convert you or anyone else into liking or even an understanding of Eggleston. I couldn't care less if you do or don't. Charles curiously (or possibly in the spirit of some kind of retaliation over my comment?) uses my previous description for a vast majority of work here and elsewhere to describe how he sees Eggleston's Portfolio Seven, as opposed to using his own words. Interesting.
    __________________________________________________
    Weski: " Steichen was committed primarily to the kind of photography which was distinguished by its strictness of composition, masterliness of execution and significance of content."
    ...and I would submit that those conventions are still the norm in a majority of photography sites including PN. The mentality hasn't changed much in forty five years. And I'm not saying it should or shouldn't, only that it hasn't. Make of that what you will.
    __________________________________________________
    Although I disagree with Weski on some things, I believe he is on point coupling Evans' remark about documentary & art with Eggleston's use of the snapshot esthetic. I can't prove it, but believe this link was made through William Christenberry. I also believe his ideas on the snapshot were influenced by Garry Winogrand's, who believed the snapshot to be a rigorous photographic form -- and obviously the photographic ur-language that most viewers are wired for.
    I mean in particular this G.W. description of the snapshot:
    "I knew that was coming. [A question about the snapshot] That’s another stupidity. The people who use the term don’t even know the meaning. They use it to refer to photographs they believe are loosely organized, or casually made, whatever you want to call it. Whatever terms you like. The fact is, when they’re talking about snapshots they’re talking about the family album picture, which is one of the most precisely made photographs. Everybody’s fifteen feet away and smiling. The sun is over the viewer’s shoulder. That’s when the picture is taken, always. It’s one of the most carefully made photographs that ever happened."
    When most photographers were desperately trying to distance themselves from the snapshot (and they still are), Eggleston swam upcurrent, grasped its power, embraced it, and put it to good use in his own terms.
    ________________________________________________
     
  79. Luis, my point is that even if W.E. chose to shoot from the hip, which he no doubt did from time to time, I would defend his choice to do that as an artist. That's my main point: the artist consciously chooses his or her style. You asked me earlier why I thought Eggleston generated so much controversy. I think its because Eggleston's style often looks like a casual snapshot, even if it was very intentional. This will cause some people to assume he has no more skill than their mother, hence, the controversy. It also means many of his photos are so much like snapshots that they are not very interesting to many people, which we are also seeing here in this discussion. Its kind of like the phenomenon of someone looking at an abstract painting of a famous master and thinking "my three year old could do that." How many people's mother made large dye transfer prints of them and went around to art galleries to make a name for themselves? Obviously, Eggleston was very intentional in his art.
     
  80. that some are wired to get more out of pretty than conceptual​
    I do think our wiring affects our taste and our openness to different things. But I think it's much more than wiring. My taste has been changed over and over again through exposure, reading, looking, education, influence of others, my own ever-changing circumstances, my own growth as a photographer.
    .
    No amount of education is going to make me like those examples of WE's work.​
    For me, there's a time for liking and a time to set it aside and be challenged, moved, made to question, be made uncomfortable, even be accosted by a photo. Sometimes, there's just the matter of appreciating historical movement and perspective and leaving my own taste out of it.
     
  81. as opposed to using his own words​
    I know. I'm becoming more sensitive to other people's feelings.
     
  82. Steve Murray - "Luis, my point is that even if W.E. chose to shoot from the hip, which he no doubt did from time to time, I would defend his choice to do that as an artist."
    I do not see any need to defend it.
    Steve - "You asked me earlier why I thought Eggleston generated so much controversy. I think its because Eggleston's style often looks like a casual snapshot, even if it was very intentional. This will cause some people to assume he has no more skill than their mother, hence, the controversy."
    I don't disagree entirely with the above, but believe that is secondary. The reaction to Eggleston is not unique in the histories of art and photography, and in other cases had nothing to do with the snapshot style. It always had to do with departures from convention. People who have spent a lot of time and money to conform to the ambient definitions of "photographer", "amateur", "pro", etc have expectations, and when someone who departs from convention comes along, it is at best bewildering. To cite just one very well-known other example of this, Robert Frank encountered similar reactions from both experts and amateurs. Today, most people have no problem with Frank's work, and accept it whether they understand or like it, or not. Eggleston is more difficult and is taking much longer. His brilliance and transgressions against convention cut deeper than Frank's did in his day. The great majority of aspiring photographers mistakenly believe that development in photography is analogous to distancing themselves from the (perceived to be lowly) snapshot. To see someone reverse that field, taking the medium to new places and opening up new maps and territories is unsettling, but the issue lies in the cliche'd minds of photographers, not so much with W.E.'s work.
     
  83. I think Steve's dye transfer comment being one of several components in differentiating W.E's "snapshot-esque" style from regular snap-shooters points back to what I always thought in my gut about image making in general and that is...
    "If you want to create a unique and interesting image, do it in a unique and interesting way."
    Even the lucky shot from the hip requires the image maker to develop an interesting way of finding scenes that would make an interesting image shooting that way. There's still some sort of process involved that can't be ruled out as an influence on the final result.
    Whether it's art can only be determined by the viewer's sensitivity toward recognizing the lengths of what the process delivers to the final result.
    As an example of what I'm saying there are two versions of W.E.'s image of the dolls on the hood of a cadillac in two separate portfolios on that site that are noticeably colored differently either due to color process of the original or the scan of it for web viewing intentional or not.
    My feelings changed about the image between the two versions. That's what one tiny portion of the "process" of image making can do to an image. It can be as subtle as shooting in a snapshot style or as blatant as printing using an unusual and expensive dye transfer method that distorts the colors in a "photographic color process" style.
     
  84. Eggleston's pictures are no more snapshots than Walker Evans' are documentary pictures. I do not think it takes a deep understanding of the medium to grasp that while they're in the snapshot style, they're anything but snapshots. W.E.'s style has been used in many films, and copied unsuccessfully by countless photographers.
    Tim - "Whether it's art can only be determined by the viewer's sensitivity..."
    I'll be ultra-polite here and only say that is untrue.
    Tim Lookingbill - " It can be as subtle as shooting in a snapshot style or as blatant as printing using an unusual and expensive dye transfer method that distorts the colors in a "photographic color process" style."
    I could buy that if it wasn't for the fact that Eggleston has had prints done by the corner drugstore, pro printed type-C's, Dye Transfers and Giclee's as well. Plus anyone who knows about dye transfers (my wife worked at one of the last major labs doing dyes in the U.S.), and I have several in my art collection, should know that the process does not have inherent color distortions. It offers a tremendous range of color contrast and saturation. Looking at Eggleston's prints, one sees a very wide range of color, from subtle pastels in some, to outrageously saturated in others. He doesn't have a prescribed or set approach, but an eclectic one.
    Now, the color variations in reproductions, specially the Eggleston book & album covers vs. his own prints and scans by his estate vary a lot. Not to mention between uncalibrated monitors...
     
  85. Luis G.- "W.E.'s style has been used in many films, and copied unsuccessfully by countless photographers."
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/william_eggleston/pool/with/4329168787/
     
  86. Luis, you're reading way too much into the intent of what I'm saying. I don't know who you are or the level of your experience in image making not that makes any difference.
    But I do know what goes into creating an image and know that the process whether it's in the act of looking, composing and reproducing chemically, thermally, stochastically or digitally, all defines and controls the final results that deliver the emotion and impressions a viewer derives from any image. The viewer contributes to the experience through their own sensitivities. This is what keeps "Joe Sixpack" from running and/or starting his own MMOA. You can deny and/or argue that all you want but no one experienced, seasoned or PhD'ed to death is going to convince me otherwise.
    Plus anyone who knows about dye transfers (my wife worked at one of the last major labs doing dyes in the U.S.), and I have several in my art collection, should know that the process does not have inherent color distortions.​
    There's nothing but color distortions (compared to what was in the actual scene) in any 2D reproduction process. It's these distortions that add to the emotion and uniqueness in an image otherwise we wouldn't have terms like bleach bypass, cross processing and color grading in movies.
    Again I must emphasize my original intent in my previous post in that the "process" of image making comes in many forms and W.E. used several to create his images.
     
  87. It's complicated, because variations in color perception between humans vary greatly (15x+). Distortions begin there. Unlike monitors, eyes cannot be calibrated. What made dye transfers so attractive was their incredible flexibility. Their signature was slight unsharpness, unless registered with extreme care.
    My emphasis was that Eggleston's early drugstore prints, a common enough process, are nothing like Aunt Bea's. Nor are his more professionally printed ones. I agree that the entire chain of choices defines the final print.
    Again, I'm not trying to convince you of anything, and will let this matter rest here.
     
  88. I do get the feeling that many of his photos would be lucky to get much more than a 4 to 4.5 if submitted for ratings here.
     
  89. @ Stephen Cumblidge However, most the photos here that get good ratings aren't in museums and world renowned art galleries. Nor are they awarded top honors at companies like hasselblad or receiving Getty images Lifetime achievement awards. Which, by the way, to some degree, says something about the people in here giving ratings.......
     
  90. So, if someone gets shown in a gallery their photo of shoes under a bed and random plants suddenly becomes high art? With many of his photos the only thing present is the reputation of the person taking them. If a non-famous person took them would anyone pay any attention to them?
     
  91. @Stephen Cumblidge Well, compared to what? your bad insect photos, terrible architecture work, or the all centered portraits?
     
  92. With many of his photos the only thing present is the reputation of the person taking them.​
    The only thing you recognize is the reputation. There's plenty present that you may not see or may not appreciate.
    __________________________
    If a non-famous person took them​
    A non-famous person didn't take them, didn't think to take them, and didn't put together the body of work. Eggleston did.
    _____________________________
    I do get the feeling that many of his photos would be lucky to get much more than a 4 to 4.5 if submitted for ratings here.​
    Hardly a standard that matters to me. I look at photos, not ratings.
     
  93. Well, compared to what? your bad insect photos, terrible architecture work, or the all centered portraits?​
    Chris, that's out of line and completely uncalled for.
     
  94. @Fred G ahahah! How is what I said any worse that what you did. You dissected his entire paragraph. ahaha.
     
  95. We're here to share (and argue) ideas. It's totally uncalled for to trash someone's work because you don't like their opinions about something. I challenged what Stephen said about Eggleston. You maligned his own work, which has nothing to do with his opinions about Eggleston.
    A guy could have the best work in the world and that wouldn't make his critical ideas any more true and a guy could have the worst work in the world and that wouldn't make his critical ideas any more false.
    What I did is what these forums are about. An exchange (and disagreement) about ideas. You crossed a line. I hope you can now see the difference.
     
  96. Keep in mind that the thread is if the artist is Banal or not Banal. I am pointing out that absent the reputation of the photographer a large number of these photos would most likely get Banal ratings on PNet if they were posted today. Is this in doubt? You can say that they have special qualities, but would you expect them to rise to the top of the ratings here?
    Also, there are few more meaningless statements than that people should like something because it is famous. Sometimes the emperor has no clothes. Appeals to fame carry little weight in my opinion.
    The only thing you recognize is the reputation. There's plenty present that you may not see or may not appreciate.​
    Or that in many cases people are trying very hard to see things that aren't there. This reminds me of discussions about Andy Warhol. The art and the reputation get mixed into a difficult to separate mess.
    A non-famous person didn't take them, didn't think to take them, and didn't put together the body of work. Eggleston did.​
    And if someone else did I wonder if anyone would care. Have people been taking equally-good hipster style photos and not achieved success?
    Hardly a standard that matters to me. I look at photos, not ratings.​
    That is the best response in my opinion. William Eggleston's photos are certainly not designed to be decorative photos with wide appeal. Many appear intentionally non-decorative.
    Chris, that's out of line and completely uncalled for.​
    If one challenges a famous person on an open forum there will be insults. I don't expect otherwise. I did find the attack on my centered portraits amusing, considering the work of who we are discussing :)
     
  97. Chris, don't know how old you are but I think you might be judging with a non-familiarity with W.E.'s cultural reference established as a reaction to the advent of mass produced one hour lab color process photography (reaction similar to film vs digital) that became prominent right about the time he shot those images. The article I linked states this.
    You couldn't possibly see any value in his image without knowing his deliberate use of the snap shot style as a use of Social Realism. In this case the realism is the wide spread look and style of family snap shots W.E. used as a symbol of the banality of everyday American life much like what was seen in the movie "Napolean Dynamite". Boredom of teenage rural life in the midwest ramped up to the point of ridiculous glorification of mediocrity using deadpan acting style and pacing to where it became a character/symbol in the movie.
    The dye transfer reproduction print W.E. implemented I believe was used to ramp up this wide spread snap shot style to the point of symbolism with its "bold, pretty colors" look of mass produced one hour photos making the image more than it is. I can tell you none of my family one hour photo lab snap shots back then look like W.E.'s. There's something familiar but at the same time unfamiliar and that's what makes it unsettling and interesting to me. It's the familiar colors, subject matter and compositions, but something is off and it's hard to put my finger on it.
    The same processes used to turn cultural references into symbols can be seen in the use of the posterized street art style of the Obama "Hope" poster. Most who weren't familiar with that style of poster would thought they made Mr. Obama look like he came from a comic book when in fact that style is emulating a familiar look seen during the cultural revolution of the '60's similar to the poster of Che Guevara .
    The "Hope" poster is familiar but something is different and new about it. W.E. did the same thing back then except using a "snap shot" style with photography.
     
  98. @Fred G I may have stepped on some toes and I apologize for that. However, This is black text on a white background and there are no boundaries for this context. And I got to tell ya, there is a vase difference between good and bad work. I respect a persons' opinion 100% more who creates excellent body work, opposed to barely mediocre. I mean, maybe I'm not an expert, but I contribute and run a semi-nice art gallery in downtown Long Beach and I see a abundant body of photography art. It's one thing for an educated artist to critique something opposed to some guy who can't even fathom William Eggelstons compositions. Are you REALLY going to take that guys opinion over a seasonal professional or one of those photography masters? And the answer is F NO. unless you too, are an idiot. Because heres the thing, you aren't going to learn a damn thing from the guy in the room producing the worst work.
     
  99. @Tim Lookingbill I know his work. We hosted an exhibit w/ william eggelston, stephen shore, luigi ghiri, and Tierney Gearon, a few years ago.
     
  100. Sorry, Chris. I got you mixed up with Stephen and his comment...
    So, if someone gets shown in a gallery their photo of shoes under a bed and random plants suddenly becomes high art? With many of his photos the only thing present is the reputation of the person taking them. If a non-famous person took them would anyone pay any attention to them?​
     
  101. @Tim Lookingbill I figured, because I didn't mention anything about his process etc. No worries, mate.
     
  102. Now I'ld like to address the importance of the process in reference to my comment...
    "If you want to create a unique and interesting image, do it in a unique and interesting way."
    These three images...
    http://tlchurchphotography.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/MG_8029_thumb.jpg
    http://farm5.staticflickr.com/4005/4231045637_03625b220a_z.jpg?zz=1
    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2554/4117669096_74afc58969_o.jpg
    ...I found by googling "shot with Alien Bees". To me they have a slick and polished professional look. They're perfect looking. Top shelf. But they have a sameness about them as if taken by the same photographer which they were not. Same lights, same process, same look. There's a ton of them like these online much like the family snap shots W.E. emulated back then.
    In the future will this look eventually become a cultural symbol some day to represent digital photography from long ago? Where do we go from here?
     
  103. Stephen Cumblidge - "I do get the feeling that many of his photos would be lucky to get much more than a 4 to 4.5 if submitted for ratings here."
    Which says far more about PN and the ambient esthetic than Eggleston and the rest of the world. Your 'criticisms' are based on the idea that because you can't see it, it can't be so, and that PN's endemic arbitrary ratings system is a standard against which all work is measured. I don't want to be the one to break it to you, but it's not. You're telling us a lot more about yourself than Eggleston, whom you obviously do not understand. Remember, the Egglestons you don't begin to grasp are now 45 yrs old. Most of PN is conceptually stuck in pre-Robert Frank days.
    ____________________________________________________
    @ Chris Antidote - Your insults are forbidden here, do nothing to further the discourse, and are unnecessary. Also, using another user's work against him, and putting up one of his pictures, which you did not take, not to mention the one by Eggleston, is strictly forbidden on PN. I trust a moderator will take them down ASAP. You say you own a gallery, please act like you have respect for the arts and people in general, even Stephen. Thanks.
     
  104. Now that Stephen and Chris have each reinforced their positions, I'm content to let them duke it out to their heart's content with no further interference or interest from me.
     
  105. And thanks, Luis, you are making more sense to me as I re-read your comments and I appreciate them.
     
  106. I am a technically-minded person, and I like to look for measurable metrics to answer questions. I think that the ratings system could give an insight as to if WE's photos are Banal. The ire that was brought out by this observation seems to show that it has struck a nerve in many people.
    Tim Lookingbill's responses are was what I was looking for and cover the issue very well.
    As for googling studio photos and complaining about the sameness of todays photos, stock studio portraits have looked the same for a long time, they are just easier to take these days. There are a lot more people taking a lot more photos now than 45 years ago. You can find whatever style you want if you go looking for it. A lot of brilliant people taking amazing images are going to get lost in the crowd. Google different styles and you will find a wealth of great (and awful) contemporary images.

    As for people who respond to questions with "He's famous, so they are good" and "You are just too stupid to get it" need to learn a bit about how to defend their positions. Neither response does much to convince people of anything.
     
  107. Steve, I just want to make it clear that I, and probably most others here, do not think "You are just too stupid to get it". Ignorance/stubbornness and/or a lack of education is/are not the same thing as stupidity. There's nothing to defend because you haven't mounted even a faint semblance of an attack or challenge of any kind.
    I do agree with you that several brilliant photographers have and are getting lost in history for a multitude of reasons. With apologies for mentioning her name yet again, Vivian Meier is a perfect example of someone whose work almost vanished into oblivion.
    The "measurable" metrics of Photo.net have nothing to do with the reality of art.
     
  108. Thanks for the kind words, Charles.
     

Share This Page