American photographer William Eggleston (b. 1939, Memphis, Tennessee) is known for his neutral gaze and how he creates his art from commonplace subjects: a farmer’s muddy Ford truck, a red ceiling in a friend’s house, the contents of his own refrigerator. In his work, Eggleston photographed “democratically” – literally photographing the world around him. His large-format prints monumentalise everyday subjects, everything is equally important; every detail deserves attention.
As a young student, Eggleston discovered Henry-Cartier-Bresson’s photographs through the monograph The Decisive Moment, which led to his interest in photography. It was particularly Cartier-Bresson’s choice of motifs and angles that fascinated him; not the classical American landscape photography, but immediate surroundings and everyday objects. These became his motifs, represented with a degree of fortuity, which comes to light by his choice of perspectives and the coarse-grained snapshot aesthetic that characterizes his early works.
Parallel to his engagement with black-and-white photography in the 1960s, Eggleston experimented with color photography. He began to work on what was to become the series Los Alamos in 1966, consisting of 2200 color photographs when completed in 1974.
It was primarily through color photography that Eggleston created his characteristic expression, which set the stage for the institutional recognition of the discipline. The exhibition of Eggleston’s color photographs at Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1976 was the museum’s first solo exhibition exclusively devoted to color photography. The book William Eggleston’s Guide, written by the curator John Szarkowski, accompanied the exhibition.
William Eggleston’s work has been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions worldwide including William Eggleston and the Color Tradition at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles (1999); William Eggleston at Foundation Cartier, Paris (2001, travelled to Hayward Gallery, London); Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany (2002); William Eggleston: Los Alamos, Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2002, travelled to Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Serravles, Portugal; National Museum for Contemporary Art, Oslo, Norway; Louisiana Museum of Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; Albertina, Vienna, Austria; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas through 2005); and William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video 1961–2008, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2008, traveled to the Haus de Kunst, Munich; the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and the Art Institute of Chicago through 2010).