William Eggleston: The Democratic Forest

For any serious collector of the seminal work of William Eggleston, will know that this is no mere slight brushstroke of his oeuvre. William Eggleston famously said of his approach to photography; “I am at war with the obvious”. This statement seems to amplify the banal, colourful, intrinsically linked subject matter. Whether it be a ceiling, a shopping mall carpark, views from restaurant windows or bottles of soda. These recurrent themes are what draws his followers of this dissenter to his artform. 

An Eggleston photograph identifies every day, yet he is at war with the obvious. A twist then that may isolate some critics but, also support and strengthen their respective theory. That yes, the work may seem familiar and boring, but of course, they are right. He is one of many colour photographers; the list seemingly growing. Others have tried to copy his style but failed not having the required tenacity for such a thematic or, indeed a sense of the vernacular language of his photography. Just as the photographic language of Saul Leiter is a very different perspective, it is still an observation of everyday life. I’ve always been a fan of his colour palette, but also, I have been a fan of his early monochromatic work. However, when I view those photographs, I yearn for them to be in colour. Your sense of visual literacy becomes accustomed to a particular style, you learn to appreciate the obvious. Hence my affinity with William Eggleston, he is not an out and out documentarian in the photojournalistic vain, but he is a documentarian who has influenced many a photographer. 

Certainly, his style seems to influence a middle-class English photographer in the guise of Martin Parr, who has published work of colourful cakes and indeed a book aptly titled The Non-Conformists, seems to assert the close relationship with the obvious, these photographers both share. If you’re looking for a post-modernist perspective on social documentary, then this book really doesn’t define itself as such. However, if you’re looking for a book that gives you an insightful perspective on post-modern colour photography, and how colour highlights certain eccentricities and characteristics of southern aristocracy then this is, definitely well worth seeking out.

© William Eggleston The Democratic Forest

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