Sunday, January 24, 2010

William Eggleston and the Unreal World

The new show at Victoria Miro is by legendary American photographer William Eggleston.

Eggleston was born in 1939 in Memphis Tennessee to a wealthy family (cotton plantation etc etc) and my favourite pieces of his work have an essence of the American south embedded within them. On the surface his compositions have a throw-away quality and if you have ever watched William Eggleston in the Real World you may wonder whether there is a touch of the emperor's new clothes about what he does - he generally only takes one shot of things he is interested in - the antithesis of the way that most photographers work.

He is very fashionable at the moment - there was a recent piece in the Guardian about all the bands who have used his images on their album covers. Of course as a resident of Memphis there must be an Elvis connection and although Eggleston apparently has no interest in the big E there inevitably is. Eggleston was commissioned to take pictures of Graceland and these were used in a Graceland guidebook in 1984 - the story is that the powers that be (probably Priscilla) were not that into the photos and the guide was withdrawn - hence it is now very collectible. The images however are still around and can be seen online and purchased in an expensive portfolio. They are archetypal Eggleston - colour saturated, throw away, hyper real and other worldly. They also look very much like any images that tourists take of Graceland (I say this because I have taken lots of photos there myself including the image above).

I sound like I am criticising Eggleston's work but I really am not - I love it. He was in attendance at the Victoria Miro's PV but unfortunately I missed him. A friend of mine who did have the honour said that he was very charming and still very much the ladies man.

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