We who love color photography owe a lot to William Eggleston and Bill owes a lot to John Szarkowski. Eggleston was a color photography in the 70’s who broke through the barrier where color photography was not considered art. Szarkowski curated Eggleston’s show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1976, a controversial exhibit that brought color photography into the mainstream of contemporary art.
Eggleston’s photography is powerfully mundane. He takes common scenes (e.g a child’s trike in a driveway, a red ceiling with a bare lightbulb) and makes them powerful. He often imbues these scenes with a sense of foreboding or menace. His photographs of people are snapshots, but in the spirit of Cartier-Bresson, they capture a sense of moment.
Eggleston was in the news lately when he won a lawsuit against a collector who was upset that Eggleston had made additional, larger prints similar to a limited edition.
I was looking for more information on Eggleston and ran into a wonderful documentary on Youtube. Somehow, seeing a working artist interviewed and gaining insight into his thoughts and motivations makes a huge difference in how you see and think about his work.
I highly recommend that you set some time aside to watch the program. It has been uploaded in five chunks and here are the links:
Interesting to note that Eggleston lived a very “loose” life and, at one point, had two houses with his family in one and a mistress in the other. Apparently, his wife knew about the mistress and either approved of or tolerated her.
Eggleston is a prolific author and has produced a number of excellent books (see Amazon)
There is also an excellent article about Eggleston in Memphis City Magazine: http://www.memphismagazine.com/Memphis-Magazine/June-2012/The-art-of-being-William-Eggleston/index.php?cparticle=1&siarticle=0#artanc