Antony Gormley: Being Human

Antony Gormley: Being Human

Alan Yentob’s film for the BBC’s Imagine strand last week made a powerful case for Anthony Gormley being one of the most original and profound of British artists at work today. In Antony Gormley: Being Human, Alan Yentob followed the sculptor to recent exhibitions of his work in Paris and Florence, and explored the influences that have shaped his life and work. Continue reading “Antony Gormley: Being Human”

The Colourful Mr Eggleston

The Colourful Mr Eggleston

William Eggleston, Memphis, Mississippi

William Eggleston, Memphis, Mississippi

I watched an absorbing film by director Reiner Holzeimer in the Imagine strand about the work of William Eggleston, described by Alan Yentob as ‘one of the most influential and original photographers alive today’.

The Imagine film showed the normally shy and elusive Eggleston at work – taking photographs on the road, in and around his home town of Memphis. From a  Mississippi aristocratic family and with a fondness for drink and women, he dragged colour into the world of art photography. Reviled initially  in photography circles for shooting in colour,  his unique visual style has come to influence legions of photographers and film-makers.

William Eggleston Memphis c. 1969-70

William Eggleston Memphis c. 1969-70

In the film we learn that Eggleston’s early photographic efforts were inspired by the work of Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. He began experimenting with colour in 1965 and colour transparency film became his dominant medium in the later sixties.

William Eggleston, Adyn and Jasper

William Eggleston, ‘Adyn and Jasper, 1971

Martin Parr talked about the democracy inherent in Eggleston’s work: a democracy of objects within the photograph’s frame, a place where all things can be represented equally.

Eudora Welty noted in her introduction to The Democratic Forest, an Eggleston photograph might include “old tyres, Dr Pepper machines, discarded air-conditioners, vending machines, empty and dirty Coca-Cola bottles, torn posters, power poles and power wires, street barricades, one-way signs, detour signs, No Parking signs, parking meters and palm trees crowding the same curb.”

Eggleston, Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973

William Eggleston, Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973

Eggleston made his debut in 1976 at the Museum of Modern Art with the exhibition William Eggleston’s Guide. In the catalogue for the exhibition, curator John Szarkowski wrote: “Eggleston … shows us pictures of aunts and cousins and friends, of houses in the neighborhood and in neighboring neighborhoods, of local streets and side roads, local strangers, odd souvenirs, all of this appearing not at all as it might in a social document, but as it might in a diary, where the important meanings would be not public and general but private and esoteric.”

William Eggleston, Huntsville, Alabama, ca. 1970

William Eggleston, Huntsville, Alabama, ca. 1970