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Home > On Capturing Beauty in the Mundane

William Eggleston is a photographer who captured ‘the ugly’ on colour film in Memphis, northern Mississippi.

On Capturing Beauty in the Mundane

His images give us the everyday, the mundane. With his unusual viewpoints and by using that amazing palette, he truly expresses what an artist he is with a magnificent body of work.

Since the 1970s, Eggleston’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent locations worldwide. After his first exhibition in 1976, he was heavily criticised. Colour photography was seen as not used by the professionals at that time.

Eggleston did in fact venture to Paris to try and capture street images but he couldn’t recreate what was already made thousands of times. So he went back to Memphis and practised his art there instead, capturing fascinating images out of mundane material.

The key thing to take from this is that there are always opportunities to find interesting subject matter, no matter where you are. It is not your, but how you perceive it. It is about your voice, and how you choose to express it. This is the beauty of photography.

Photographing the mundane makes you work harder. I think the fun and excitement of photography is that you never 100% know what the photograph is going to look like. The camera renders our three-dimensional reality into a two-dimensional plane.

Eudora Welty said of Eggleston:

“What we have here is a set of visions. Like a magician, William Eggleston has raised them out of light colour, smoke and an absence of people. Visions or not, he remains a photographer who never trifles with actuality: he works with actuality, and within it – the self-evident and persisting world confronted by us all. The human being, unseen, remains the reason these photographs of place carry such power to move and disturb us – and, by the end, somewhat hearten us.”

If you study Eggleson’s images, they are full of beautiful colours and light. He is renowned for his vivid, poetic and mysterious work. He uses a technique called dye transfer – this is where you take an ordinary film negative and separate it into three colours: blue, yellow and red. These are then put onto a matrix film, representing the colours of cyan, magenta and yellow spectrum, where they are exposed to light and transferred physically.

Many of his photographs have primarily warm tones in the background (like red, orange, or yellow) – yet it may be a very cold colour (blue, green or violet) that pops at you, and this is his subject of interest.

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