Born July 27,1939. Memphis, Tennessee
“I never know beforehand. Until I see it. It just happens all at once. I take a picture very quickly and instantly forget about it.”
– William Eggelston
William Eggleston assumes a neutral gaze and 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 photographs “democratically”–literally photographing the world around him. His large-format prints monumentalize everyday subjects, everything is equally important; every detail deserves attention.
A native Southerner raised on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta, Eggleston has created a singular portrait of his native South since the late 1960s. After discovering photography in the early 1960s, he abandoned a traditional education and instead learned from photographically illustrated books by Walker Evans, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Frank. Although he began his career making black-and-white images, he soon abandoned them to experiment with color technology to record experiences in more sensual and accurate terms at a time when color photography was largely confined to commercial advertising. In 1976 with the support of John Szarkowski, the influential photography historian, critic, and curator, Eggleston mounted “Color Photographs” a now famous exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.William Eggleston’s Guide , in which Szarkowski called Eggleston’s photographs “perfect,” accompanied this groundbreaking one-person show that established his reputation as a pioneer of color photography. His subjects were mundane, everyday, often trivial, so that the real subject was seen to be color itself. These images helped establish Eggleston as one of the first non-commercial photographers working in color and inspired a new generation of photographers, as well as filmmakers.
Eggleston has published his work extensively. He continues to live and work in Memphis, and travels considerably for photographic projects.
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1957 Acquires his first camera, a Canon rangefinder.
1958 Acquires his first Leica.
1959 Sees Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment and Walker Evans’s American Photographs.
1965 Begins to experiment with color negative film.
1967 Starts to use color transparency film. Goes to New York and meets Garry Winogrand, Lee Friedlander and Diane Arbus. Presents his work to John Szarkowski at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
1972 Has his first dye transfer printed, Untitled, (Greenwood Moose Lodge)
1974 Harry Lunn publishes the first portfolio of dye-transfer photographs, "14 Pictures." Receives a Guggenheim Fellowship. Appointed Lecturer in Visual and Environmental Studies at The Carpenter Center, Harvard University. Completes his Los Alamos project.
1975 Receives a National Endowment for the Arts Photographer’s Fellowship.
1976 The Museum of Modern Art exhibits work in first solo exhibition of color photographs, accompanied by a monograph, "William Eggleston's Guide." Commissioned by Rolling Stone to photograph Plains, Georgia before the election of President Jimmy Carter. This work becomes "Election Eve," the first artist's book of original photographs published by Caldecot Chubb.
1978 Appointed Researcher in Color Video at Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the invitation of Richard Leacock. Photographs the Gulf states on a commission from A.T. & T. Receives another award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Visits Jamaica.
1979 Chubb published three smaller volumes of original photographs mounted and bound, "Morals of Vision," "Wedgwood Blue," and "Flowers."
1980 Travels to Kenya with Chubb and creates a body of work known as "The Streets Are Clean on Jupiter." Commissioned to produce the "Louisiana Project" and to photograph throughout the state.
1982 Invited to photograph the set of John Huston’s film Annie.
1983 Begins to photograph in Berlin, Salzburg and Graz and titles the series Kiss me Kracow. Commissioned to photograph the mansion of Elvis Presley, Graceland.
1986 Invited by director David Byrne to visit and photograph the making of his film True Stories. Commissioned by the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art to photograph in Egypt.
1988 Begins a series of color photographs of England he calls English Rose.
1989 Photographs in the orange groves of the Transvaal. Accepts one of “54 Master Photographers of 1960-1979” awards from Photographic Society of Japan. Plays the role of musician Jerry Lee Lewis’ father in the movie Great Balls of Fire.
1992 Travels to China, mainly photographing in Beijing.
1993 Commissioned by Delta Pine and Land to photograph Scott, Mississippi.
1996 Commissioned by Coca-Cola to photograph their plants in four cities in the U.S. Invited by producer Caldecot Chubb to visit and photograph the making of the film Eve’s Bayou. Receives the University of Memphis Distinguished Achievement Award.
1998 First dealer and longtime friend, Harry Lunn dies.
1999 Invited by director Gus Van Sant to visit and photograph the making of the film Easter. Invited by the J. Paul Getty Museum to photograph the museum and its grounds. Also photographs religious locations in Orange County, California.
2000 Commissioned by the Cartier Foundation to photograph the American desert. Commissioned by Paramount Pictures to photograph studio lot in Hollywood, California.
2001 Travels to Japan and photographs Kyoto. Agrees to work with filmmakers Vincent Gerard and Cedric Laty to produce a documentary film entitled Eggleston Suite, later titled By The Ways (A Journey With William Eggleston).
2002 Travels extensively and photographs locations including Pasadena, California; the New Jersey Shore; Queens, New York; St. Petersburg, Russia; and Tuscany, Italy.
2003 Travels to and photographs the Niagara Falls area. Travels to Arles, France to attend Rencontres d’Arles and meets Henri Cartier-Bresson. Accepts Gold Medal for Photography from National Arts Club, New York.
2004 Receives the Getty Images Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Center of Photography (ICP). Travels to Hawaii and photographs with new Hasselblad panoramic format camera. Travels to Madrid to accept 2004 Photoespana Award. Travels to Clovis, New Mexico and photographs the city and Norman Petty Recording Studios. Stranded In Canton, a video shot by Eggleston in the early seventies is screened in London.
2005 William Eggleston In The Real World, a documentary film on Eggleston by Michael Almereyda is completed. Travels to Xilitla, Mexico to photograph Las Pozas. Longtime advisor and friend, Walter Hopps dies. Invited and travels to Tokyo to be guest judge at Canon’s New Cosmos Photography Contest.
1974 Jefferson Place Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1975 Carpenter Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
1976 Photographs by William Eggleston, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Traveled to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA; Fredrick Wright Art Galleries, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; Reed College, Portland, OR; Art Gallery, University of Maryland, College Park, MD Photographs by William Eggleston, Grapestake Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1977 Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, Memphis, TN
William Eggleston: Color Photographs 1966-1977, Castelli Graphics/Leo Castelli, New York, NY
Castelli, New York, NY
Allan Frumkin Gallery, Chicago, IL
Lunn Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Election Eve, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
William Eggleston: Dye transfer Photographs, Grapestake Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1978 Election Eve, Laguna Gloria Museum, Austin, TX
William Eggleston: Color Photographs, Allan Frumkin Gallery, Chicago, IL William Eggleston: Photographs, Lunn Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1979 Photographer’s Gallery, Melbourne, Australia Volkhochschule, Berlin, Germany
1980 Troubled Waters, Charles Cowles Gallery, New York, NY Eggleston, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1981 William Eggleston: Photographs 1967-1978, Light Gallery, New York, NY
1982 William Eggleston: 5 Projects, Lunn Gallery, Washington, D.C.
William Eggleston: Troubled Waters, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1983 William Eggleston: Color Photographs from the American South, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England. Traveled to Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, England
Werkstatt für Photographie, Berlin, Germany
Kenia, Fotogalerie im Forum Stadtpark, Graz, Austria
William Eggleston: Recent Color Photographs, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1984 William Eggleston: Dye Transfer Photographs of Elvis Presley’s Home, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY
Photographs of Graceland, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN
William Eggleston’s Graceland, Middendorf Gallery, Washington, D.C. Traveled to Birmingham Museum, Birmingham, AL; James Corcoran Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Aspen Museum of Art, Aspen, CO Graceland and the South, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
1985 Recent Color Photographs, Friends of Photography, Carmel, CA Middendorf Gallery, Washington, D.C.
William Eggleston, Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, GA
New Works from the Tennessee Project, Allen Street Gallery, Dallas, TX
William Eggleston, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
Bill Eggleston: New Orleans Project, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN
William Eggleston: Photographs from Miami, Day Vista Photography Gallery, Florida International University, Miami, FL
1986 William Eggleston’s Early Black and White Photography, Memphis Brooks Museum, Memphis, TN
William Eggleston, Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA
1987 Southern Texas Museum, Austin, TX
Eggleston’s Egypt, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN Traveled to Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO
William Eggleston’s Guide, Middendorf Gallery, Washington, D.C. William Eggleston, Pace/MacGill, New York, NY
1988 Middendorf Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1989 Laurence Miller Gallery, New York, NY
New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA
Oxford University Museum, Oxford, MS
1990 William Eggleston: The Democratic Forest, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1992 Ancient and Modern, Barbican Art Gallery, London, England. Traveled to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen, Denmark; Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zürich, Switzerland William Eggleston: First Color 1967-1972, Laurence Miller Gallery, New York, NY
1993 William Eggleston, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY William Eggleston, Kurts Bingham Gallery, Memphis, TN
1994 From Graceland to Wasteland, Laurence Miller Gallery, New York, NY Th.e., Naples, Italy
Scarabb Gallery, Cleveland, OH Kurts Bingham Gallery, Memphis, TN
1995 Four Portfolios, Art Museum of University of Memphis, Memphis, TN Shiraishi Contemporary Art, Inc, Yokohama, Japan
Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS
1997 10.D.70.V1 and 10.D.70.V2, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY
William Eggleston: Pictures from Eve’s Bayou, Gallery of Contemporary Photography, Santa Monica, CA
1998 William Eggleston, 213 – Marion de Beaupré, Paris, France
William Eggleston: Morals of Vision, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster, Germany
Pictures from Eve’s Bayou, Ledbetter Lusk Gallery, Memphis, TN William Eggleston, Southside Gallery, Oxford, MS
1999 Cadillac, Cheim & Read Gallery, New York, NY
William Eggleston: Photographs 1966-1971, Cheim & Read Gallery, New York, NY
William Eggleston: In Color, 1966-1996, Gallery of Contemporary Photography, Santa Monica, CA
William Eggleston: 1998 Hasselblad Award Winner, Hasselblad Center, Göteborg, Sweden. Traveled to Bilbao, Spain
Eggleston 70/90, Gallery of Contemporary Photography, Santa Monica, CA
2000 William Eggleston el color como lenguaje, Fotoseptiembre Internacional, Mexico City, Mexico
William Eggleston, Gallery Hue-Williams Michael Fine Art, London, England
2001 William Eggleston, Recent Work, Cheim & Read, New York, NY William Eggleston, Photoespana, Madrid, Spain
Snapshots from Life, Photographs by William Eggleston, The Arts Center, St. Petersburg, FL
William Eggleston, Foundation Cartier, Paris. Traveled to Hayward Gallery, London, England
Mostly California Desert Pictures 1999-2001, Rose Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
William Eggleston, Cheim & Read Gallery, New York, NY
2002 William Eggleston: Los Alamos, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany. Traveling to Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Serravles, Portugal; National Museum for Contemporary Art, Oslo, Norway; Louisiana Museum of Art, Humlebaek, Denmark; Albertina, Vienna, Austria; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX
2004 William Eggleston, Precolor, Cheim & Read Gallery, New York, NY William Eggleston, Dust Bells, Victoria Miro Gallery, London
2005 Nightclub Portraits, 1973, Cheim & Read, New York, NY
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
1972 Photography Workshop Invitational, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1974 Art Now '74, Kennedy Art Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.
Straight Color, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
1975 14 American Photographers, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD. Traveled to Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA; La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; The Fort Worth Museum of Modern Art, Fort Worth, TX Color Photography: Inventors and Innovators 1850-1975, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT
Photography 2, Jack Glenn Gallery, Corona del Mar, CA
1976 Aspects of American Photography 1976, University of Missouri, St. Louis, MO
Spectrum, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY Color Photographs 1976, The Broxton Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1977 The Contemporary South, a United States Information Agency traveling exhibition organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA
10 Photographes Contemporains/Tendances Actuelles aux Etats-Unis, Galerie Zabriskie, Paris, France
Contemporary Color Photography, Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, IN
William Christenberry and William Eggleston: Color Photographs, Morgan Gallery, Shawnee Mission, KS
Some Color Photographs, Castelli Uptown, New York, NY
Contemporary American Photographic Works, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX. Traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, CA; Newport Harbor Art Museum, Newport Beach, CA
1978 Evocative Presence: Twentieth Century Photographs in the Museum Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
New York, New York, Light Gallery, New York, NY
Photographs from Samuel J. Wagstaff Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Traveled to Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; Grey Art Gallery, New York, NY; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; University Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
MO; Grey Art Gallery, New York, NY; Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; University Art Museum, Berkeley, CA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA In Color, A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans, LA
Six Photographers, Diane Brown Gallery, Washington, D.C.
By the Side of the Road, Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH
Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
23 Photographers, 23 Directions, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, England The Quality of Presence, Lunn Gallery, Washington, D.C. Amerikanische Landschaftsphotographie, Die Neue Sammlung, Munich, Germany
Nicholas Nixon and William Eggleston, The Cronin Gallery, Houston, TX Attitudes: Photography in the 1970’s, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
1979 Auto-Icons, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
One of a Kind, a traveling exhibition from Polaroid Corporation collection shown at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX. Traveled to De Cordova Museum, Lincoln, MA; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN; Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; and Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
American Landscape Photography, Diane Brown Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Ten from Mirrors and Windows, Grapestake Gallery, San Francisco, CA American Images, New Work by Twenty Contemporary Photographers, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Photographie im Alltags Amerikas, Kunstgewerbemuseum, Zürich, Switzerland
Photographie als Kunst, Tiroler Landesmuseum, Innsbruck, Austria Invitational Color Photography, MoMing Gallery, Chicago, IL
Curator's Choice: Contemporary American Photography, Fortuny Museum, Venice, Italy
American Photography in the 1970’s, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
1980 Three American Photographers, Sunne Savage Gallery, Boston, MA Lee Friedlander and William Eggleston , Atlanta Gallery of Photography, Atlanta, GA
Aspects of the 1970's, DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA Zietgenossische Amerikanische Farbphotographie , Galerie Rudolf Kicken, Cologne, Germany
The Imaginary Photo Museum, Kunsthalle, Cologne, Germany Farbwerke--Eine Neue Generation, Kunsthaus, Zürich, Switzerland Southeastern Graphics Invitational, Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC
Nuages, Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, France
1981 Color in Contemporary Color Photography, University Museum, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL
An Introduction to Color Photography, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland The New Color: A Decade of Color Photography, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY
1982 Slices of Time: California Landscape Photography: 1860 - 1880, 1960 - 1980, Oakland Museum, CA. Traveled to Security Pacific National Bank, Los Angeles, CA
Floods of Light: The History of Flash Photography, The Photographer’s Gallery, London, England
Photography in Color, Stockton State College, Pomona, NJ Twentieth-Century Photographs from the Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Seibu Department Store Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Still Life: Photographs from the Collection, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Target III: In Sequence, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Color as Form: The History of Color Photography, International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, Rochester, NY, and Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1983 Subjective Vision, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
1984 New Color/New Work: Eighteen Photographic Essays, Middendorf Gallery, Washington D.C. Traveled to Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago, IL
Color Photographs: Recent Acquisitions, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1985 Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England
American Images 1945-80, Barbican Art Gallery, London, England Photographs from the Permanent Collection, Part II, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN
1986 Twenty-Five Years of Modern Color Photography, Photokina, Cologne, Germany
1989 Seibu Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Portraits: A Selection from the Permanent Collection, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN
1990 Photography Until Now, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN
Recent Accessions in Photography, 1984 - 1990, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN
1991 Volumes of Photographs: Eggleston and Christenberry, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN
Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1992 Recent Acquisitions: William Eggleston, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY
1993 In Camera, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, NM
Daydream Nation, Luhring Augustine Gallery, New York, NY Photographers Who Created a New Age, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan
Flora and Fauna, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
William Eggleston and William K. Greiner. Color Photographs, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, LA
1994 Gesture and Pose: Twentieth Century Photographs from the Collection, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
A Sense of Place, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR
One Hundred Years of Street Photography, University Art Galleries, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
The Beauty in the Beast: Artists Observe the Horse, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, GA
Brooks Biennial: Memphis Contemporary Photography, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN
New Acquisitions/New Work/New Directions 2, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA
1995 Recent Acquisitions, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY Heimat, Jewish Museum, Vienna, Austria
Blind Spot: Dallas Artists Research and Exhibition, Dallas, TX
Tibet House Benefit Exhibition, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY Human Nature Benefit Exhibition, New Museum, New York, NY
100 Years/100 Images, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany Internationale Foto-Triennale Esslingen 1995, Galerie der Stadt Esslingen, Germany
Seeing Things, Andre Emmerich, New York, NY
20/20, In Khan Gallery, New York, NY
Objects, Faces and Anti-Narratives - Rethinking Modernism, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan
1996 American Masters of Photography; A 100 Year Survey, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Loretto, PA
Recent Acquisitions, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Blind Spot: The First Four Years, Paolo Baldacci Gallery, New York, NY
1997 Hope Photographs, National Arts Club, New York, NY Blind Spot: Coming of Age, White Columns, New York, NY Florescence, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
About Painting, Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY
1998 Developing Illusions, 1873-1998: Photographs from the Collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (- 1999)
1999 William Eggleston and the Color Tradition, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
2000 The Desert, Foundation Cartier, Paris, France
How You Look at It: Photographs of the 20th Century, Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany
2001 Settings and Players, White Cube Gallery, London, England
2002 Documenta 11, Kassel, Germany
2003 Cruel and Tender, Tate Modern, London, England. Traveling to Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
Strange Days, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA
2004 Colour After Klein, Barbican Art Gallery, London
2005 Mavericks of Color Photography, Philadelphia Museum of Art
- William Eggleston, 14 Pictures, 14 dye transfer prints, edition of 15, published in 1974 and distributed by Lunn Gallery/Graphics International, Washington, D.C.
- Seven, 7 chromogenic coupler prints, edition of 3, published in 1979 by Caldecot Chubb, New York
- Troubled Waters, 15 dye transfer prints, edition of 30, published in 1980 by Caldecot Chubb, New York
- Southern Suite, 10 dye transfer prints, edition of 12, published in 1981 by Lunn Gallery, Washington, D.C.
- William Eggleston’s Graceland, 11 dye transfer prints, edition of 31, published in 1984 by Middendorf Gallery, Washington, D.C.
- Eggleston, 10 dye transfer prints, edition of 9, published in 1991 by J. Crouse, Sarasota, FL
- 10 D.70.V1, 10 dye transfer prints, edition of 15, published in 1996 by Eggleston Artistic Trust and PhotoArt GmbH, Hamburg, Germany
- 10.D.70.V2, 10 dye transfer prints, edition of 15, published in 1996 by Eggleston Artistic Trust and PhotoArt GmbH, Hamburg, Germany
- William Eggleston – Pictures from Eve’s Bayou, 6 dye transfer prints, edition of 6, published in 1998 by Eggleston Artistic Trust in association with Caldecot Chubb
- Cadillac, 12 chromogenic color photographs, edition of 15, published in 1999 by Eggleston Artistic Trust
- Los Alamos, 75 dye transfer prints, edition of 7, published in 2002 by Eggleston Artistic Trust
- Dust Bells Volume One, 10 dye transfer prints Edition of 15, published in 2004 by Eggleston Artistic Trust
- Dust Bells Volume Two, 10 dye transfer prints Edition of 15, published in 2004 by Eggleston Artistic Trust
BOOKS WITH ORIGINAL PRINTS
- Election Eve, 100 color-coupler prints in two volumes, edition of 5, published in 1977 by Caldecot Chubb, New York
- Morals of Vision, 8 color-coupler prints, edition of 15, published in 1978 by Caldecot Chubb, New York
- Flowers, 12 chromogenic coupler prints, edition of 20, published in 1978 by Caldecot Chubb, New York
- Wedgwood Blue, 15 chromogenic coupler prints, edition of 20, published in 1979 by Caldecot Chubb, New York
- William Eggleston’s Guide, edited by and with text by John Szarkowski, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1976
- The Democratic Forest, introduction by Eudora Welty, Secker & Warburg, London 1989
- Faulkner’s Mississippi, text by Willie Morris, Oxmoor House, Inc., Birmingham, Alabama 1990
- Ancient and Modern, introduction by Mark Holborn, Random House, New York 1992
- Horses and Dogs, essay by Richard B. Woodward, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London 1994
- The Hasselblad Award 1998: William Eggleston, essay by Walter Hopps, Hasselblad Center, Goteborg, Sweden, 1999
- 2 and 1/4, text by Bruce Wagner, Twin Palms Publishers, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1999. Deluxe limited edition of 50 including 1 signed dye transfer print.
- William Eggleston, Foundation Cartier, Paris, 2001
- Los Alamos, introduction by Walter Hopps, essay by Thomas Weski, Scalo in collaboration with Museum Ludwig, Zurich - Berlin - New York, 2003
PUBLICATIONS FEATURING EGGLESTONS WORK
- 19th and 20th Century Photographs, ed. Peter Galassi, Lunn Gallery Graphics, Washington, D.C. 1976
- Photography Year 1976, Time-Life Books, New York 1976
- Mirrors and Windows: American Photography since 1960, ed. John Szarkowski, The Museum of Modern Art, New York 1978
- A Book of Photographs from the Collection of Sam Wagstaff, Gray Press, New York and Rochester 1978
- American Images, New Works by Twenty Contemporary Photographers, ed. Renato Danese, New York 1979
- The New Color Photography, Sally Eauclaire, Abbeville Press, New York 1981
- The Imaginary Photo Museum, by Renate and L. Fritz Gruber, Cologne 1981, London 1982
- Color (revised edition), ed. Time-Life Books, Alexandria 1981
- Annie on Camera, Abbeville Press, New York 1982
- New Color/New Work, Sally Eauclaire, Abbeville Press, New York 1984
- American Images: Photography 1945–1980, edited by Peter Turner and John Benton-Harris, London 1985
- True Stories, David Byrne, Penguin Books, New York and London 1986
- American Independents: Eighteen Color Photographers, Sally Eauclaire, Abbeville Press, New York 1987
- 54 Master Photographers of 1960-1979, compliments from Cornell Capa, Photographic Society of Japan, Tokyo 1989
- Photography Until Now, John Szarkowski, Museum of Modern Art, New York 1989
- Rhythm Oil, Stanley Booth, London and New York 1991
- An American Century of Photography, Keith F. Davis, Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City 1995
- Heimat, Verlag Christian Brandstatter, Vienna 1995
- Magische Allianzen: Fotografie und Kunst, Ulf Erdmann Ziegler, Lindinger + Schmid Verlag GdbR, Regensburg 1996
- Photography’s Multiple Roles, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago 1998
- Icons of Photography: The 20th Century, ed. Peter Stepan, Prestel, Munich – London – New York 1999
- the desert, Fondation Cartier pour l’ art contemporain, Thames & Hudson 2000
- The Book of 101 Books: Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century, PPP Editions, New York 2001
- A Creative Legacy: A History of the National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artists’ Fellowship Program, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 2001
- Gift to the Nation, including letters from Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Friends of Art and Preservation in Embassies, Washington, D.C. 2001
- Photography Past Forward: Aperture at 50, essay by R.H. Cravens, Aperture Foundation, Inc., New York, 2002
- Ein Bilderbuch, Museum Folkwang, Steidl Verlag, Essen 2003 Collecting Photography, Gerry Badger, Mitchell Beazley, London 2003
- Looking At Los Angeles, edited by Marla Hamburg Kennedy and Ben Stiller, Metropolis Books 2005
Genius in colour: Why William Eggleston is the world’s greatest photographer
Eggleston was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1939, and he grew up on the very fringe of the Mississippi Delta, where he continues to work to this day. His family had been cotton farmers, though his father was an engineer and his mother the daughter of an important local judge. He bought his first camera, a Canon Rangefinder, in 1957, and after a brief period of work in monochrome, he switched to colour in 1965.
His way of making proved controversial from the start, and what we forget is that Eggleston has had to put up with a lot of pompous and ill-informed ignorance during his long life. If his work had not been so important, that level of criticism might not have mattered so much, but the fact is that his work has been an education for all of us. The way we do photography now would not have been the same without Eggleston. Martin Parr, Nan Goldin and Jeff Wall would not have been granted the permission to be themselves without Eggleston's example. It was he and not, say, Cartier-Bresson, who was the true revolutionary, which means that he has caused a lot of trouble in his time merely by being, quite unflinchingly, who he has been.
He has had many detractors, and many of those critics spoke up when his work was shown at MoMa, New York, in 1976, in a retrospective that helped to define the nature of photography in our time. Forty years ago, his photographs were dismissed as banal, inconsequential and ramshackle in the extreme. The New York Times called it "the most hated show of the year", and Hilton Kramer, loftily countering the curator's assertion that the show was in fact perfect, wrote "perfectly bad, perhaps… perfectly boring, certainly".
What didn't they get that we, having absorbed Eggleston's influence, can now see with such clarity?
They wanted a subject, a message, a neatly-framed box into which content was poured. Eggleston didn't deal in such easy certitudes. He found his early subject-matter in the American South, his homeland, but the American South that he saw and felt on his pulses could not have been more different from the American South of Walker Evans or Bruce Davidson. There is no political perspective in Eggleston's work. This is not a photography of protest or social engagement. He does not seek out a story or a subject-matter. The subjects – a rusting street light, a heap of planks ranged against a wall, a ceiling fixture – are barely subjects at all. They are most often nothing but lone objects, often seen at an uncustomary angle to the vertical or the horizontal, so that we begin to feel vertiginous as we stare and stare at them.
And then there is his use of colour. Photography didn't use colour seriously until Eggleston came along. Colour was the prerogative of the slick advertising man, that dealer in cliché and banality. Eggleston saw a use for heightened colour; in fact, his colours can be shrill to the point of near hysteria. So he shows us objects that are both ordinary and very particularised, and then ratchets up the tension that surrounds those objects by infecting their atmosphere with shrill colours. He is besotted by the imaginative possibilities of the ordinary. He wants us to rinse our eyes until we see, without prejudice, the exquisite poignancy of the seeming banalities of the everyday.
Some of his early work reminds us of the greatness of Raymond Carver, who had a way of describing how the look of a refrigerator seems to a drunken man, that glacial, detached control of the stupefied gaze. So we cannot expect storytelling from Eggleston, but we do find a high degree of calculated painterliness, a form of abstraction, if you like – in fact, he has painted and drawn all his life.
Most of all, you must resist seeing through the photograph to the bald image of a recognisable object too quickly, too readily. Instead, begin by looking at the form and the tight framing of the piece, the angle of view, the playing off of colour against shadow – that sort of thing. Otherwise, you will exhaust the imaginative possibilities of Eggleston's work before you even begin.
William Eggleston's Big Wheels:
This enigmatic 1970 portrait of a tricycle took photography down a whole new road
Although a photograph always shows the same things, that doesn’t mean those things are always seen the same. This William Eggleston picture is variously known as Untitled, Tricycle and Memphis, 1970. It has been variously seen, too. Now considered a classic, it was initially greeted in many quarters with incomprehension, even as an outright affront.
Eggleston’s tricycle first attracted attention as part of a 1976 exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. It appeared, in fact, on the cover of the exhibition catalog, William Eggleston’s Guide. “The most hated show of the year,” one critic wrote. “Guide to what?” detractors sniffed about a show whose photographic subjects also included a tiled bathroom wall, the interior of a kitchen stove and the contents of a freezer. Hilton Kramer called Eggleston’s images “perfectly banal” and “perfectly boring.” Kramer, the New York Times’ chief art critic, was playing off of John Szarkowski, MoMA’s director of photography, who had described Eggleston’s photographs as “perfect.” Instead of perfection, Kramer saw “dismal figures inhabiting a commonplace world of little visual interest.”
How well do those words apply to Eggleston’s tricycle? “Dismal” is a subjective judgment. “Commonplace?” Yes, and proudly so. “Of little visual interest”? Well, that’s another story. For starters, Eggleston’s photograph represents a tectonic shift in the medium’s history: the growing acceptance of color in art photography. Tellingly, the MoMA show was the first major solo all-color photography exhibition in the museum’s history. Eggleston was the most prominent member of a cadre of young, talented photographers working in color: Stephen Shore, Joel Meyerowitz, Joel Sternfeld and Eggleston’s fellow Southerner William Christenberry. It was one thing to use color on a fashion model or a sunset. But a tricycle?
Eggleston’s photograph also can be seen in larger cultural terms. In its small way, it’s an example of the growing prominence of white Southern culture in the ’70s—from Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy to the popularity of rock bands like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd to the election of Jimmy Carter in the same year as the MoMA show. Then there’s a further, literary dimension. As the curator Walter Hopps wrote in an essay for a book following Eggleston’s 1998 Hasselblad Award, his “photographs carry the enriched reverberations of fiction.” This rather forlorn-looking child’s toy (notice the rusted handlebars) is a visual correlative for the ways banality was being used in the short stories of such contemporary writers as Ann Beattie and, especially, Raymond Carver.
Yet the best argument for the tricycle’s visual interest isn’t its place in photographic history or its Southern prov-enance or its affinity with literary “dirty realism.” It’s the photograph itself.
Homely objects had a long tradition of being photographed—but they were finely wrought homely objects, as in the portfolio of hand tools Walker Evans made for Fortune magazine in 1955. Eggleston’s tricycle is different. It’s at once beneath homeliness yet oddly exalted. One way Eggleston achieves this effect is obvious: he shoots the tricycle from a low angle. It looms large in the imagination because it looms large, period. Looking heavenward, Eggleston’s camera bestows on that tricycle the majesty—and ineffability—of an archangel’s throne.
The tricycle does not stand alone. You also find two ranch houses and a car in a carport. You have a patch of dead grass, some asphalt, the sweep of gray sky. The scene is all very, well, negligible. Or is it? The grass and asphalt almost eerily mirror the sky as neutral space. The trike is shot in such a way as to dominate the foreground, like a chariot of very youthful gods. Archangels, deities: for Eggleston, the profane is what’s sacred. Has anyone ever evoked the enchantment of the banal quite so well? “I am at war with the obvious,” he has said.
The tricycle’s many curves mock the angularity of the roofs to the rear. Then there’s the chromatic play of red handle grips with bluish-green seat and frame, not forgetting the several bits of white on seat, frame, stem and wheel rims—the whiteness playing off the roofs and trim of the houses. Color is absolutely not an afterthought. Eggleston started out as a black-and-white photographer—a good one, too, inspired in part by Henri Cartier-Bresson. The point is, Eggleston embraced color photography consciously, aware of how much a richer palette would bring to his art. Remove color, and you severely diminish the effect. The whole thing is a model of unobtrusive artistry amid the everyday nondescript. It seems so simple and artless. Looked at closely, though, it’s as cunning as a seduction, as ordered as a sonnet.
How to account for such a miracle of seeing and recording? Eggleston, now 72, has long declined to discuss the whys and wherefores of specific photographs. Reiner Holzemer’s 2008 documentary film, William Eggleston: Photographer, includes a black-and-white family snapshot. It shows a very young Eggleston in the foreground, looking natty in cap and sailor suit, a tricycle behind him. Might it be a sidewalk-worthy equivalent of Charles Foster Kane’s Rosebud? Surely, not even Eggleston can say. In such indeterminacy begins the mystery and wonder of art, three-wheeled and otherwise.
Written by Mark Feeney, a Boston Globe writer, won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2008.