Eggleston, William

American (1939-)

William Eggleston distinguished himself in 1976 by receiving the first solo exhibition of color photographs in The Museum of Modern Art, winning legitimacy for color in a world of black-and-white. But this was only the latest instance of Eggleston going against the grain. Raised in the South among a backdrop of hunting and sports, the young Eggleston preferred music and visual imagery, often buying postcards and cutting out pictures from magazines. While his friends received four year degrees, the only thing Eggleston took away from college was a Leica camera a friend had given him. But what a gift! Inspired by Cartier-Bresson and Walker Evans, Eggleston took off for New York, where he was befriended by Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander and Gary Winogrand.

The late 60s and early 70s found Eggleston dissatisfied with the restrictions of black-and-white and he began shooting in color. While meeting several prominent gallery owners and curators around the country, he discovered dye-transfer printing (a way to get highly saturated prints) at a little shop in Chicago. Though it was extremely and cost prohibitive for some photographers, Eggleston took a chance. Two years later, he was exhibiting his color prints at MoMA. Today, Eggleston shoots very “ordinary” subject matter in his native South, always managing to find breath-taking color amidst what others might casually pass over as mundane. His commissions have taken him to Plains, Georgia (home of Jimmy Carter), Graceland and several movie sets.