William Eggleston's photographs focus on the strangeness of ordinary moments

William Eggleston's photographs focus on the strangeness of ordinary moments

January 23rd, 2011 by Staff Report in Life Entertainment

William Eggleston. Untitled (Leg with Red Shoe, Paris), 2007. Pigment print, 22 x 28 in. Edition of 7. © Eggleston Artistic Trust. Courtesy Cheim & Read, New York

William Eggleston. Untitled (Leg with Red Shoe, Paris),...

William Eggleston, a resident of Memphis and one of photography's most influential figures, is featured at Nashville's Frist Center for the Visual Arts through May 1.

His solo exhibition, "Anointing the Overlooked," showcases 50 photographs that transform ordinary moments into unforgettable images.

Eggleston was a key figure in legitimizing color photography as an artistic medium. By not censoring, rarely editing and photographing the seemingly forgettable, Eggleston reminds viewers of the inherent democratic uses of photography and our widespread access to it.

"Anointing the Overlooked" demonstrates that Eggleston, most celebrated for his photographs of the American South, is equally at ease across the country and around the world. His motivation for making color photography was simple and decidedly unpretentious. He wanted to see a lot of things in color because the world is in color. Unlike many photographers, who take hundreds of pictures of a subject to achieve the "perfect" image, Eggleston is an artist with personal discipline who makes "one picture of one thing."

Born in Memphis in 1939 at the end of the Great Depression, Eggleston spent most of his formative years interested in painting and audio technology. Since turning to photography, he has been a remarkable chronicler of a culture that was being transformed by racial integration, air conditioning, strip malls, shopping carts and fast-food chain restaurants. While rooted in a specific place and time, Eggleston's depictions of these transformations have universal resonance that continues today.

In 1976, the artist exhibited his works in the first solo show of color photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The exhibit caused something of a sensation among museum visitors and critics who found Eggleston's use of color garish and his seemingly offhand approach antithetical to their expectation of art photography, which at the time was dominated by black-and-white images.

Colors in Eggleston's early prints were intensified by the dye-tranfer process - a printing technique developed by Kodak in the 1940s in which a succession of three color separations produces richly saturated and color-stable prints.

Eggleston has frequently worked in series, and included in the show are seven photographs from William Eggleston's Guide, among them the iconic "Untitled (Memphis Tricycle)." Selections from two series of the early 1980s, The Southern Suite and Troubled Waters, are also on display in the show. Finally, a large group of rarely seen pictures made after 2000 reveals Eggleston's continued interest in showing the everyday in a new light.

Accompanying the exhibition is a selection of album and compact disc covers featuring Eggleston's imagery. These were created for various musicians - Alex Chilton, Spoon, Big Star, Chuck Prophet, Silver Jews, Primal Scream Christopher Idylls, Joanna Newsom and The Derek Trucks Band.

The Frist, 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 1-5:30 p.m. Sunday (all times Central). Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors/military/college students and free for visitors 18 and younger. Call 615-244-3340.