The National Portrait Gallery present an exhibition entitled William Eggleston Portraits that explores the career of William Eggleston, the pioneering American photographer renowned for his use of colour and charting the ordinary lives of people in and around the artist’s home in Memphis, Tennessee. This exhibition of 100 works surveys Eggleston’s full career from the 1960s to the present day and is the most comprehensive display of his portrait photography ever.
Eggleston photographic career began in the 1960s when he took a series of photographs that illustrate that his fascination with the ordinary lives of those who lived around was in evidence in never-before seen vintage black and white prints from the 1960s.
However it was Eggleston’s experimental use of colour and his solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in the 1970’s that really made his name.
In the 1970’s, Eggleston charted the Memphis night club scene with his photographs and an experimental video called Stranded in Canton which is shown in the exhibition.
Some of the major works from the 1970’s including the artist’s uncle Adyn Schuyler Senior with his assistant Jasper Staples in Cassidy Bayou, Mississippi, and Devoe Money in Jackson, Mississippi. Other highlights include portraits of The Clash frontman Joe Strummer and actor Dennis Hopper.
In the 1970’s, Eggleston’s photography was criticised for the ordinariness of his subject matter, however the exhibition illustrates how the ordinary can be extraordinary and Eggleston’s talent to capture the stories surrounding the individuals. Lost love, greed, alienation, pride, humour and violence are just some of the themes that are suggested but often remain ambiguous.
This intriguing exhibition gives the opportunity to consider the legacy of one of America’s leading photographers who looks for beauty in everyday life. For all the artistic value, the photographs also provide a historical record of the American South in the 1970s and 1980s which was a time of considerable political, social and cultural change.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
If you would like to find out more about the exhibition, visit the National Portrait Gallery website here
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