William Eggleston, the ancestor of color photography: the atmosphere of the times under the lens of the 70s and 80s

Memphis CA, 1965-1968, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

I am involved in a war against the obvious ordinary things.

"It’s ugly and boring, it’s not worth a shot!” Born and raised in the southern United States, at the age of 20 William EgglestonAfter watching the slow southern scenery for more than ten years, I looked at the scene in front of me. I was so sad that I could make a lively photo like Henri Cartier-Bresson in this place. "Then take these ugly and boring things?" The friend next to him suggested this frustrated new photographer; so he began to film the boring dullness of the southern town. Later, he used the color negative film, which was only used for advertising and commercial photography, to express the undetectable side of the land in detail. The bright and full of the southern beauty, from then on from the bottom of the people to the bottom of my heart.

Louisiana, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

Louisiana, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

William Eggleston, born in Tennessee, USA in 1939, was the first camera in his life at the age of 18. Two years later, he read the French photographer Bresson's "Decisive Moments", deeply fascinated by Bresson's work, and since then he has embarked on the road of photography. The 1960s was a turning point. He began to get into the color photography, the Dye Transfer Process, which can maintain the color for three hundred years. The transfection method can accurately and richly express the delicate color, which is called color wash. The highest state. He couldn't help but wonder, "What effect will these sultry colors have on an ordinary Eggleston photo?"

Photography/ Yoshiyuki Matsumura. Image Source: Vogue.com.

Photography/ Yoshiyuki Matsumura. Image Source: vogue.com.

In the past, documentary photography showed the charm of reality in black and white, and even black and white photos were more loyal to reality than color photos. But Eggleston doesn't just shoot color, he has to shoot color reality. Known as "the ancestor of color photography", he is not addicted to the romantic and dramatic effects of color, nor is he deliberately manipulated for the subjective charm; "How to express the real world with color" is what he really cares about. Like John Szarkowski, who was the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) at the time, <William Engels' Guide> (William Eggleston's GuideAs written in it, Eggleston's work is not interested in color itself, but in the "colorful world itself."

Memphis, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

En Route to New Orleans, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

Memphis, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.
En Route to New Orleans, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

John Szarkowski appreciates Engels' colorful work and helped him hold a solo exhibition in 1976 -Photographs by William Eggleston》. This exhibition is a watershed of contemporary photography: this color photography exhibition symbolizes that the world's noble art institutions have accepted the status of color images in the art field; of course, the solo exhibition also caused controversy at the time, and even was named "this year" by the New York Times. The most annoying exhibition."

From the perspective of photography history, before Eggleston, there was no shortage of photographers who used color photography as a means of expression, but color was always seen as a means of modeling - it was just self-expression, not real world. Therefore, in the era when Eggleston began to create, color photography was confined to advertising purposes, and it was far beyond the imagination of entering the art palace. Even his photography enlightenment Bresson once said to him: "William, do you know? Color is rubbish."1 However, Eggleston at that time had opened up a new world in color photography, and the comments on Bresson were just a smile.

Memphis CA, 1965-1968, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

Memphis CA, 1965-1968, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

The colorful color is a natural catalyst that makes the product more exciting and coveted. Eggleston presents a mundane life in the image, filled with miscellaneous color blocks, which can also see how consumer culture smudges the simple southern American town; the color saturation of the external reality environment is coming The higher the value, the more intense the intention of inducing consumption and shaping fashion in a society. Eggleston's color photographs reflect the dramatic changes in the American environment at the time. Now, when we look back at these photos again, we can feel the special atmosphere of an era from the color.

Memphis, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

Santa Monica, 1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

Memphis, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.
Santa Monica, 1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

Everything is equal before the camera. Nothing is more important or less important. I call it "the way of watching democracy."

With the principle of never cutting images, Eggleston forced us to look at the raw edges that we would rather ignore in our lives. In the most famous work of the film, "The Democratic Forest", it is to make the worldly things all equally important in the viewing window. Vending machines, traffic signs, sticky and dirty Coca-Cola cans... In the daily life, there are scenes that are scattered and scattered. It seems that there is no logic, but it is the most fascinating component of life. When the consumer society and the masses struggled to squeeze out wonderful and dramatic plots in ordinary days, Eggleston had to look directly at those boring clips and gadgets. The bright colors and compositional rhythm make the picture vivid and flexible, rich in change; therefore, no matter how natural the color is in the viewing experience, no matter how ordinary the subject matter, his images bring people a burst of visual impact.

Memphis, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

Memphis, 1965, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

Memphis, 1971-1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.
Memphis, 1965, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004/ Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/ London.

Recently in Amsterdam FOAM Photography Museum hosts Eggleston Solo exhibition of the same name, exhibiting his "Los Alamos" series. From 1966 to 1974, he departed from his hometown of Memphis, past New Orleans, Las Vegas, Southern California, and finally ended this road trip in Santa Monica. During the trip, Eggleston passed the Los Alamos (Los Alamos National Laboratory), where the United States secretly made nuclear bombs. More than 2,200 photos were once forgotten and were not published until they were reorganized in 2003.

With the advancement and popularity of photographic technology, it may be difficult to imagine Eggleston's hard work in the darkroom using complex and sophisticated transfection methods. But when the images of our daily life only have color filters and specific compositional viewing methods, his war on color reality and peace will continue to bring us new impact and reflection.

Los Alamos by William Eggleston
FOAM/ Keizersgracht 609, 1017 DS Amsterdam, Netherlands
Opening Hours: Mon-Wed & Sat-Sun/ 10:00 am-06:00 pm
Thu-Fri/ 10:00 am-09:00 pm
Expanded until June 7, 2017

 

All Images Courtesy of FOAM.
Note 1: From The New York Times 2016 Interview with William Eggleston.

 

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