Los Angeles County Museum of Art currently has William Eggleston: Democratic Camera—Photographs and Video, 1961–2008, on display through January 16. This photographer’s body of work is large and the selections for the exhibit had much focus on his work throughout the American South. Eggleston’s work has been the art of many album covers and music plays a role in his work.
In 1983 Eggleston did a series of photographs of Graceland which became a book/portfolio in 1984. One untitled image is from the gate of Graceland, looking out across the street. It captures what the exhibit literature expresses in that “he captured the mundane in ‘odd and arresting ways’.” He takes the “commonplace” and “vernacular details that make them seem new and strange”.
The image has a huge depth of field and the eye plays from looking at the backside of the gate to what is the landscape across the street. It is dusk and a pink and purple hued sky dances on the horizon line, darkness is encroaching as noted from a light about illuminating the gate from above. There appears to have been a long exposure since the headlights and tail lights from the cars on the street are horizontal stripes across the image. Although the exposure doesn’t seem too long in exposure since the three stop lights in repetition, do not glow too much with green, amber and red.
Neon buzzes from the stores, showing the souvenir shops, coke machines, and drive in motel that benefit from when this home and mansion became a business/tourist attraction the year before. With the mottled sky and the light from what appears to be a streetlight, the gate is blue and almost looks patinaed. The image doesn’t follow the rule of thirds and the car-light stripes cut the frame in half. This composition is balanced although cut in half due to the decoration of the gate, which is a billowing music staff and notes, and breaks this horizontal line.
Much of Eggleston’s work, including the Untitled Image described above, used a dye transfer process. This was a process developed by Kodak in the 1940s. Eggleston was quoted in talking of his process that “I don’t think anything has the seductivity of dyes” ...“By the time you got into all those dyes, it doesn’t look at all like the scene, which in some cases you want.”
The exhibit and LACMA website talk of how he had no favorite works and was “democratic (in the) treatment of his subjects.... that nothing was more or less important.” One could agree in these quotes in that there was much to see and was inspiring exhibition of his work. I spent an unbelievable amount of time in this gallery, seeing all of the work and examining how it was made, as well as what made it a work I wanted to spend time examining. Although a Memphis based artist and using largely southern locations as composition/subject , William Eggleston traveled extensively and had strong works from Kyoto and Hollywood-Paramount Studios. His elevating the common into something extraordinary not only inspired myself but has inspired the likes of David Byrne, David Lynch, and Sophia Coppola.