From the Masters | William Eggleston

From the Masters is a monthly circle studying master photographers of the past and present. To continue on, visit Holly's post for Eggleston! 

Bill at one time said to his great, highly respected friend: well, what am I going to photograph? Everything here is so ugly.’ And our friend said, ‘Photograph the ugly stuff.’ Well we were surrounded everywhere by this plethora of shopping centers and ugly stuff. And that is really initially what he started photographing.

The very first time I saw William Eggleston's work, it was at an exhibit at the Getty Center. It stood alongside Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand and I became hooked on everything in front of me. Later, diving into his color photography...a bold red ceiling with a lightbulb and wait a minute, are those sex positions on the wall? What kind of room is this anyway? I didn't understand why at the time, I just knew whatever was speaking to me, it spoke to straight to my weirdo heart. This being said, going through the month was almost embarrassing how much of a disservice I did trying to walk in his shoes. What I had appreciated most for so long in his work was his incredible way of capturing the mundane. He made it beautiful, but not for the sake of beauty. It was in the way he elevated his images through his keen understanding of light, color, rule breaking and a little something extra I never fully understood until now. There is a sense of the bizarre, a humorous take on just how weird the completely ordinary and mundane can be. A strange photographer in a strange time of our history. 

vscocam-photo-2 (3).jpg

It is both difficult and easy to love Eggleston's work. Difficult because he approached things so head on. No bullshit. Just ordinary, everyday, ugly life. Easy to love because of our tendency to romanticize the past. The cars, the buildings, the products, the people -- all of his subjects have a certain aspect of nostalgia to us now. But looking at his work through the lens of the past couldn't be any farther from what he was trying to do. His work is about here. Now. 

He takes very ordinary situations and can create very powerful pictures out of almost nothing. And therefore he is not relying particularly on the ultimate decorative thing like a nice sunset—or the incredible nostalgia that you will often see in contemporary practice. I would say he is kind of beyond that if you would like, he is almost photographing on the gap of everything else.
— Martin Parr

Why do I consider him a master? My idol?

Because he makes real life matter. And I don't mean in a precious or sweet or pretty sense. A toilet has the same visual significance to him as an exotic beach at sunset has to others. And shouldn't it always be that way? Shouldn't we be able to have an appreciation for what we see every day of our lives, and not just the extraordinary ones? Even if it came from a place of sarcasm or irony or a "screw your beach sunsets, here's a damn toilet" place. Actually, especially that.