William Eggleston The Richard B. & Jeanne Donovan Fisher Gallery

William Eggleston untitled 1970-73 on display at Tate Modern 2013

William Eggleston
Untitled 1970–73
Photograph, dye transfer print on paper 406 x 508 mm
Promised gift of Jane and Michael Wilson

Known for his rich and complex images of the American South, William Eggleston is largely credited with establishing the acceptance of colour in fine art photography.

Eggleston began to experiment with colour in the 1960s. At that time, colour photography was principally associated with commercial industries such as advertising, and was considered unsuitable for fine art photography. In 1972 he started to make prints using a highly complex and expensive process called ‘dye transfer’, which allows various colours within a photographic print to be printed as separations. Each colour is printed in its richest form, maintaining strong red and green tones within a single image. The prints are also extremely durable and will not fade.

Mostly shooting in and around his hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, Eggleston depicts the banal and everyday. His work is frequently characterised by elements such as bold colourful interiors, cars and gasoline stations, and portraits of individuals known to Eggleston as well as strangers encountered in the street. Eggleston pays close attention to the formal organisation of the frame, often employing diagonal lines and reflections, but he also relishes strong contrasts in colour with vivid reds, blues and greens.

Though these images record a particular place at a certain point in time, Eggleston is not interested in their documentary qualities. Instead, when asked what he is photographing, Eggleston simply answers ‘Life today’.

William Eggleston was born in 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee, where he lives and works.

Curated by Simon Baker and Shoair Mavlian

See also

Tate Guide to Modern Art Terms: App for iPad and iPhone

Art app from Tate, the world’s most popular Modern art gallery

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