William Eggleston



In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
William Eggleston born 1939
Photograph, dye transfer print on paper
Image: 462 × 303 mm
Presented jointly by Jane and Michael Wilson and Richard Lovett (Tate Americas Foundation) 2016, accessioned 2021


This portfolio of forty-two dye transfer print colour photographs by William Eggleston comprises ten images selected from his series Election Eve 1976 and thirty-two images from his series Chromes 1970–3. The portfolio was published in 2012 in an edition of ten of which this copy is number three. In each case, the pictures were originally taken in the 1970s and developed as ektachromes (on slide film). The dye transfer process used to reprint these images in 2012 is a special process for the reproduction of colour photographic prints. It involves making separations of the different colours that make up the print, each of which is then printed separately and combined in layers to form the final image, making it ideally suited to printing colour photography with highly saturated colours as pioneered by Eggleston in the 1970s. The dye transfer process gives the characteristic strength of red and green tones to the final image, as well as a glossy finish to the surface of the print. Eggleston’s subject matter varies considerably, but primarily concerns everyday life in the southern states of America, often around the city of Memphis where he has lived and worked for much of his life.

The series Election Eve 1976 was made during a road-trip in the state of Georgia, around Plains County and Sumter County (which housed President-to-be Jimmy Carter’s headquarters), on the eve of the American election in 1976. They depict life in what appears to be an abandoned and outmoded corner of the country as a moment of high tension and anxiety takes place on the national stage. The series Chromes dates from 1970–3. Although never before printed in this format, these images include some characteristic and iconic elements of Eggleston’s style: bold colourful interiors, shots of cars and gasoline stations, and portraits, both of individuals known to Eggleston and strangers encountered in the street. In his work Eggleston pays close attention to the complexity of the formal organisation of the composition, often employing strong diagonal lines and reflections, but he also relishes the power of strong contrasts in colour with vivid reds, blues and greens.

Eggleston was identified in the 1970s by the leading critic, curator and Director of the Department of Photography at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, John Szarkowski, as among the most important and innovative photographers working in colour, with his work being characterised by bold arrangements of form and strong colour balance. These qualities are evidenced in the works selected for this portfolio.

Further reading
William Eggleston, Election Eve, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington 1977.
E. Sussman and T. Weski, William Eggleston, Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961–2008, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York 2008.
William Eggleston, Chromes, Gottingen 2011.

Simon Baker
December 2012

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