I recently blogged about my visit to the Whitney Museum in New York to see the William Eggleston exhibit. The collection at the show is called the "Democratic Camera". The curator's tell us that William Eggleston's great achievement in photography can be described in a straightforward way: he captures everyday moments and transforms them into indelible images. William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008 presents a comprehensive selection from nearly fifty years of image-making. He was, arguably, the first photographer to present images this way and he is a key figure in American photography credited almost single-handedly with ushering in the era of color photography.
Eggleston was first inspired by the master and one of my personal favorite photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson and his book "The Decisive Moment". He first worked in black-and-white, but by the end of the 1960s he began photographing primarily in color. The museum points out that Eggleston has spent the past four decades photographing all around the world, conveying intuitive responses to fleeting configurations of cultural signs and moods as specific expressions of local color. I found most of the images, at first glance (and very quickly) as unremarkable. They seemed very simple. I kept reading the museum literature stating that the images are psychologically complex and casually refined and again, by studying them as I stood there, it was difficult to come to that conclusion - I kept wondering if I was missing something. It's true that they are kind of kitschy and "never conventionally beautiful" but beyond that I didn't really understand the collection. I kept reading and I kept looking...hard. I felt that I really didn't fully understand it, the exhibit, the technique, his way of seeing and capturing moments, until after I left and I started to examine my own archives and I started to notice the way that I "look" and "see". His images really do inspire because they force us to look in a way that hasn't been done before or at least to appreciate the every day moments, the seemingly mundane scenes, for something new and fresh and interesting. I never thought them boring but I didn't feel about the collection at the time I first viewed it, the way that I do now, after having some time to think about it.
I am not in any way comparing myself to him but I am certainly inspired by him and that's where some of the photos that I'm including here come from...that inspiration. It's a very random collection.
I really like the way fellow blogger Jordana Zeldin reviewed the exhibit. You might too.
If you are in New York do yourself a favor and visit this exhibit. And if you're not, check the website to see the other cities that will host the show.
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