The nominal subject matter of these pictures is often the walls of old buildings, or the prows of sailboats reflected in rippled water. He considered Eggleston’s photographs to be ‘perfectly banal Foliage, branches and trees, the symbols of nature, and telegraph poles and cars, the symbols of transport and communication, denote the increasing globalization of society and our environment. Controversial at the time and seen today as a key moment in the acceptance of colour in photographic art. Preoccupation with private experience is a hallmark of the romantic artist, whose view is characteristically self-centered, asocial, and, at least in posture, antitraditional. The photographers understood that the old pictures were not natural to begin with, but were merely conceits, black-and-white photographs, infinitesimal bits of experience chosen because they looked good, and seemed to mean something, as pictures. In photography the pursuit of form has taken an unexpected course.

In Eggleston’s work these characteristics are reversed, and we see uncompromisingly private experience described in a manner that is restrained, austere, and public, a style not inappropriate for photographs that might be introduced as evidence in court. When asked if photographs could be documentary as well as works of art, Evans replied ‘Documentary? A picture is after all only a picture, a concrete kind of fiction, not to be admitted as hard evidence or as the quantifiable data of social scientists. It was the first monograph of his photographs since William Eggleston’s Guide in The clean, sharp focus of Modernist photography, championed by Alfred Stieglitz early in the twentieth century and later by Szarkowski, proposed instead that the formal qualities of a photograph qualified it as art. Her series Jesus and the Cherries explores homes in the West Pomerania region of rural Poland, where her German family bought a farmhouse in the early s.

These rebels of photography subscribed to the school of personal documentary.

It is their unhappy fate to remind us of something similar but better. In his introductory essay in the exhibition catalog, Szarkowski observed that the composition of most of the pictures seemed to radiate from a central, circular core. egglestoon

WILLIAM EGGLESTON – The Hasselblad Award – Essay by Thomas Weski

A picture is after all only a picture, a concrete kind of fiction, not to be admitted as hard evidence or as the quantifiable data of social scientists.

The suggestible viewer might sense that these are subjects capable not only of the familiar modern vices self-loathing, adaptability, dissembling, sanctimony, and licensebut of the ancient ones pride, parochial stubbornness, irrationality, selfishness, and lust.


In truth the people and places described here are not so sovereign as they seem, for they serve the role of subject matter. Such photographs can be recognized by their resemblance to reproductions of Synthetic Cubist or Abstract Expressionist paintings. The sequence of photographs in this book–and I am sure this would be even more noticeable if all photographs could be shown in one large exhibition–is analogous to a musical composition.

While so much new photography seems to engage abstractly, ironically, at a distance, the photographers in this exhibition find meaning in direct, personal experience. Gifted photographers, learning from the successes of their predecessors, quickly acquire the ability to recognize and anticipate certain aspects of subject matter, situation, perspective, and quality of light that might produce effective pictures.

These pictures are fascinating partly because they contradict our expectations. The clues that have been of use to today’s color photographers are labyrinthine and nearly untraceable, but have surely included modern painting, color movies and television, drugstore postcards, and the heterogeneous flood of imagery that has come from the modern magazine.

Other series range more broadly, singling out arrangements of color and form in nature, trash, filtered light, and the optical qualities of water.

Like Wei, Jessica Backhaus uses photographs to ask questions about what it means to depict and interpret a location. Professionals used color when they were paid to, doing their very best, without quite knowing what they meant by that. You are commenting using your Twitter account.

Unfortunately, the character of our skepticism makes this difficult to believe; we are accustomed to believing instead that the meaning in a work of art is due altogether to the imagination and legerdemain of the artist. On its corner, a cloth is draped over a small pile of unidentifiable objects. The ingenuity behind the pictorial language of his photographs, which are definitely not snapshots, is not immediately clear, and we must take a closer look before we finally grasp it.

One might say about his identity. Original photographers enlarge this shared sense of possibilities by discovering new patterns of facts that will serve as metaphors for their intentions. Still linked to the present day through the presence of the photographer and other contemporary objects, such as the three differently colored ribbons and belts in the background, the fan becomes the symbol of a life and its contemplation.


And it is precisely this lack of nostalgia, the cold and aloof way the artist treats his subject matter, that shocks us. Her series Jesus and the Cherries explores homes in the West Pomerania region of rural Poland, where her German family bought a farmhouse in the early s. The sum of the book’s individual parts is an all-embracing, ingeniously composed vision of the world.

john szarkowski essay william eggleston

Isolating a particular frame from its greater context, he trusts texture, color, and composition to point out relationships among azarkowski collections of phenomena. These three photographers represented the very opposite of what constituted his predecessor Edward Steichen’s exhibition policy.

Those of us with a limited appetite for the color slides made by our own friends, pictures showing people and places that we cherish, may be puzzled by experiencing a deeper and more patient interest in the pictures of unfamiliar people and places that are reproduced here.

To make matters worse, some of the pictures are likely to be marginally interesting.

William Eggleston Guide essay – John Szarkowski

The book reads like an account of one photographer’s imaginary journeys, beginning on his family’s farm in Mississippi, continuing through various American towns and cities, taking him as far as the Berlin Wall, and then back again.

They show rural and urban landscapes, buildings, interiors.

john szarkowski essay william eggleston

Unlike them, however, Eggleston uses the entire picture plane for his compositions, with the result that what, at first glance, appears to be an incidental picture of everyday American life does in fact go much deeper. Here, too, William Eggleston has not merely documented his subject matter, but egleston used the medium of color photography to evoke the feel of a place. Garry Winogrand, who was a good friend of Eggleston, went even further, declaring in one interview: Beyond the fence, homes and yards are layered with an incandescent glow that radiates from unshaded windows.