Wednesday, 30 September 2015

William Eggleston's Guide

Bought this book a while back as part of the colour documentary section, but it was a FB post from another student that reminded me that I'd not recorded any reaction to it.

This is partly because at first sight the contents are rather underwhelming. Photos of ordinary stuff in the rather muted colour palette that film of the time produced. I know that it was the first time colour photography was taken seriously as art, but that's not sufficient reason all this time later to enjoy it. So why has it been growing on me ever since I got it.

I think it's because the photos are capable of being read in so many ways. Many can be read as simple exercises in colour composition.  A classic example is the rather prim woman in the blue dress eating her lunch...but wait...what's that chain doing wrapped around the post next to her. Is it deliberately symbolic of the fairly limited life that many women like her must have faced at the time?

The famous tricycle is another case. For me it has come to represent the dominant role that our kids play/ed in our domestic life although it could equally represent the start of a journey out of the image frame and away from home.

The lightbulb and red ceiling...simply an exercise in colour? A study in loneliness? An icon for a sunset missed?

Eggleston appeared to have the knack of making everday stuff interesting, and by isolating moments turn them into opportunities to reflect on our lives. This is a book that continues to repay thought and time spent.

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