William Eggleston


Classic photographers

William Eggleston has been named the father of colour photography. You can think about his work whatever you want but this weblog would certainly look quite different without Mr. Eggleston’s groundbreaking work. The Observer has just published a very nice article about him, a must read for anybody interested in photography (even for those who hate Mr. Eggleston’s work). Compare this older Salon.com article.
(thanks, Mark!)

This is my favourite story from the article in the Observer:

“Back in the mid-Nineties, when Primal Scream were recording their album Give Out But Don’t Give Up in Memphis, they paid a call on Eggleston to ask if they could use Troubled Waters, his strange image of a neon Confederate flag and a palm tree, on the cover. ‘I remember he was wearing jodhpurs and leather boots, some kind of military outfit, and walking about with a rifle and a bayonet,’ recalls lead singer Bobby Gillespie. ‘When he heard we were Scottish, he sat down at the piano and started reciting great chunks of Rabbie Burns. It was surreal.’ Gillespie’s friend, the filmmaker Douglas Hart, takes up the story. ‘William and his wife were knocking back these massive drinks. He asked us to let him hear a song, and then he would decide if we could have the picture. We played him ‘Moving On Up’, and he fell on his knees and started shouting, ‘Bo Diddley! Bo Diddley! Y’all love Bo Diddley!’ He rummaged through his records and pulled out ‘I’m the Meat Man’, by Jerry Lee [Lewis] and played it so loud the speakers blew. Then his wife shouted, ‘Y’all want ribs?’ She insisted we all go to a local rib joint. It was wild.’ Gillespie nods in agreement. ‘He let us have the picture though. He was a true gent.’”

And I was very glad to find these two quotes, for reasons that are directly related to what I think of photography. As you can see from this weblog I’m not a big fan of using lots of words about photography (especially not my own photos). I’m a big fan of stories about photographers, though, especially if they’re characters like Mr. Eggleston. And the second quote describes how I like to take my own photos, too.

“‘A picture is what it is,’ he says when I ask him why he no longer wishes to talk about individual photographs, ‘and I’ve never noticed that it helps to talk about them, or answer specific questions about them, much less volunteer information in words. It wouldn’t make any sense to explain them. Kind of diminishes them. People always want to know when something was taken, where it was taken, and, God knows, why it was taken. It gets really ridiculous. I mean, they’re right there, whatever they are.’”

“‘I only ever take one picture of one thing. Literally. Never two. So then that picture is taken and then the next one is waiting somewhere else.’ Let me get this straight, I say, astonished: each image he has produced is the result of one single shot? He nods. And what happens, I ask, if you don’t get the picture you want in that one shot? ‘Then I don’t get it,’ he answers simply. ‘I don’t really worry if it works out or not.’”