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William Eggleston

(b. 1939)


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(1939– ).

Photographer. Best known for color photographs recording small-town and rural life in the South, he has also worked in locations around the world. In his most distinctive work, people appear infrequently, but ordinary objects, variously treasured, abandoned, or disregarded, bear witness to human activity. Eggleston's controversial 1976 show at the Museum of Modern Art, the first solo exhibition of color photography there, did much to stimulate interest in color among photographers in that decade. In addition, the deceptive casualness of his highly controlled style helped to develop appreciation for the snapshot aesthetic. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he continues to make his home there, although he spent much of his early life in northern Mississippi. He studied at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Delta State College (now University) in Cleveland, Mississippi, and the University of Mississippi in Oxford. The discovery of Henri Cartier-Bresson's photography in the early 1960s fueled his passion for the medium. Soon, work by Robert Frank and other young street photographers came to his attention. Following their lead in concentrating on anti-heroic aspects of his native region, in the mid-1960s he began to employ resplendent color. By treating unromantic subjects such as pick-up trucks and humble dwellings with aesthetic seriousness and flawless technique, he produced a powerful tension between expectation and visual impact. “I am at war with the obvious,” an often-quoted remark, gets to the heart of his purpose. In conjunction with his 1976 MoMA show, he assembled the photographs in William Eggleston's Guide, a smaller and more focused selection of images. His other publications include The Democratic Forest (1989), Faulkner's Mississippi (1990), and Ancient and Modern (1992).

Subjects: Art.


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