Her series Jesus and the Cherries explores homes in the West Pomerania region of rural Poland, where her German family bought a farmhouse in the early s. And it is precisely this lack of nostalgia, the cold and aloof way the artist treats his subject matter, that shocks us. One can say then that in these photographs form and content are indistinguishable – which is to say that the pictures mean precisely what they appear to mean. The response was presumably improvised and unresponsive, of interest only as an illustration of the lengths to which artists sometimes go to frustrate rational analysis of their work, as though they fear it might prove an antidote to their magic. Out of focus, the reflection takes on a texture similar to the painted van window. The picture of a journey–often a means of self-discovery in literature–is here conveyed subliminally and serves as a metaphor of social change. What he means is that a photographer wants form, an unarguably right relationship of shapes, a visual stability in which all components are equally important.

But even this perfectly off-balanced photograph leaves us with a feeling of unease and insecurity, for the yellow bottle contains highly flammable lighter fuel, and one cannot help feeling that Eggleston has set up the whole scene for an experiment fraught with consequences. If this is true, it does not mean that the pictures are not also simultaneously about photography, for the two issues are not supplementary but coextensive. A sunset-lit landscape of messy kudzu appears next to a crisp Italianate porte cochere. Artists themselves tend to take absolutist and unhelpful positions when addressing themselves to questions of content, pretending with Degas that the work has nothing to do with ballet dancers, or pretending with James Agee that it has nothing to do with artifice. The technical geniuses who developed this wonderful advance assumed, naturally, that more was better, and that the old pictures plus color could only be more natural.

john szarkowski essay william eggleston

Or, if they are different, one might say that a photograph’s subject is not its starting point but its destination. Whatever happens to be in front of the lens when the shutter was tripped got photographed.

Besides those photographs which are almost monochrome, photographs such as, for example, Eggleston’s already mentioned photograph of depicting a room with a ceiling virtually dripping with red, there are other color photographs which seem to have been taken with black-and-white film: In the first case the meanings of color have been ignored; in the second they have been considered at the expense of allusive meanings. And it is precisely this lack of nostalgia, the cold and aloof way the artist treats his subject matter, that shocks us.


William Eggleston used to work with a moderate wide-angle lens during his ‘Guide’ days. Artists themselves tend to take absolutist and unhelpful positions when addressing themselves to questions of content, pretending with Degas that the work has nothing to do with ballet dancers, or pretending with James Agee that it has nothing to do with artifice.

These subjects appear to be no more overtly interesting or exotic than those in our own family albums, nor do they identify themselves as representatives of a general human condition. In Babyproofa gastronomic still life in muted earthtones, a can of olives and other store-packaged goods sit on a dated Formica counter.

While editing directly from life, photographers have found it too difficult to see simultaneously both szarkowdki blue and the sky. The simplicity of these pictures is as the reader will have guessed not so simple. As always, it is Eggleston’s use of light which lends his subject matter their virtually supernatural quality. Even the automatic cameras that record the comings and goings in banks describe facts and williwm that surprise mere eye-witnesses. Serious photographers applied its rules to black-and-white photography, not least because they wished to differentiate themselves from the increasing use of color photography, both in related fields, such as journalism or advertising, and in the private sphere of the amateur photographer.

The work seen here, selected from an essay of pictures completed inis on the surface as hermetic as a family album. The combination of exaggerated perspective and the subjectively controlled coloration of his dye-transfer egglestob exactly suited his artistic purpose. Whatever a photographer’s intuitions or intentions, they wlliam be cut and shaped to fit the possibilities of his art. You are commenting using your WordPress.

William Eggleston Guide essay – John Szarkowski

We have been told so often of the bland, synthetic smoothness of exemplary American life, of its comfortable, vacant insentience, its extruded, stamped, and molded sameness, in a word its irredeemable dullness, that we have come half to believe it, and thus are startled and perhaps exhilarated to see these pictures of prototypically normal types on their familiar ground, grandchildren of Penrod, who seem to live surrounded by spirits, not all of them benign.

But what is at a given moment too difficult can bit by bit be grasped, and finally become possible.

john szarkowski essay william eggleston

The reviews were hurtful. It was eggoeston point where color photography gained recognition as a medium of artistic expression. It is not clear whether the bucolic modesty of the work’s subject matter should be taken at face value or whether this should be understood as a posture, an assumed ingenuousness designed to camouflage the artist’s Faustian ambition.


Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here In that more familiar mode, photographic romanticism has eggleeston to mean the adoption and adaptation of large public issues, social or philosophical, for private artistic ends an activity that might be termed applied romanticism, as distinct from pure Wordsworthian independenceand it has generally been expressed in a style heavy with special effects: Instead of factory workers or high-rises, the views are largely close and domestic.

That encompassing motif is itself so broad and hopelessly unformed, with so many aspects, angles, details, sotto voce asides, picturesque subplots, and constantly shifting patterns – and none of this clearly labeled – that in fact only the description itself identifies the thing described, and each new description redefines the subject.

WILLIAM EGGLESTON – The Hasselblad Award – Essay by Thomas Weski

It is his ability to create a vision of the world using imagery from a geographical region–‘this is Eggleston country’–of surveyable size, a vision of the world which we can all understand irrespective of our nationality, a vision of the world which is universally valid.

The term should be documentary style. The empty shower brought to mind a torture chamber; a blood-red ceiling exploded like a violent hallucination; the open black oven could have been a suicide’s last glimpse of the world. By means of photography one can in a minute reject as unsatisfactory ninety-nine configurations of facts and elect as right the hundredth. In photography the pursuit of form has taken an unexpected course. Even the most servile of photographers has not yet managed to duplicate exactly an earlier work by a great and revered master.

Even in The Democratic Forest we cannot fail to notice that colors of his more recent photographs seem less aggressive, much warmer, and hence more conciliatory. This suggests that the pictures reproduced here are no more interesting than the person who made them, and that their intelligence, wit, knowledge, and style reach no farther than that person’s – which leads us away from the measurable relationships of art-historical science toward intuition, superstition, blood-knowledge, terror, and delight.

He considered Eggleston’s photographs to be ‘perfectly banal The goal is not to make something factually impeccable, but seamlessly persuasive.