William Eggleston’s Democratic Forrest
William Eggleston is one of the most influential photographers of the last 100 years, and now even more so thanks to Instagram. His work is influencing thousands, or maybe millions, of photographers who probably don't even know his name.
But a recent show, and a few profiles, have put William Eggleston's name back in the ether, and that's a great thing.
Eggleston is known for his colors. He used a film processing technique called a dye-transfer process, that resulted in some super-saturated vivid images. It was the original filter technique.
He also created this idea of showing part of something, to reveal a larger story. Instead of framing a picture of an entire car, he would shoot the corner, or the wheels near the road. This tighter cropped look at a subject is a common photo technique today and something we see all the time on Instagram, and it's one I regularly copy as well.
Eggleston isn’t afraid of not having a clear subject either, or I should say, an immediately clear subject. Eggleston captures glances of landscapes that invite the viewer in to find the subject - a pair of chairs, a honey jar in focus, or maybe it’s just an arrangement of interesting colors.
The places he captures seem like they could be anywhere—places all of us have seen before— but also simultaneously appear as foreign dreamscape as well. He turns the mundane into something far more interesting, which is why the press panned some of his work, because they thought it was it boring. That was a failure of the imagination in my opinion, but you know...critics.
I love his work though and I love how he broke through and created a new style of photography. He was the first photographer to have a show of all color images at the MoMA, back in 1976 when he was 37. Like it or not, it can’t be denied that he’s influencing so many of today’s photographers.
A show of Eggleston’s works, The Democratic Forest, is on display now at the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea until December 17th. The images are big and will suck you in. I highly recommend a trip. Also, read this recent profile in T Magazine and watch the documentary In the Real World (embedded above) to learn more this genius, a laconic, hard drinking, hard smoking, master of photography.