What I'm Reading: Perfectly Boring Photos

We've come to that point in the quarantine where I've begun looking to CNN for artistic inspiration. 9/10 times this results in disappointment---today however, I struck gold. In collaboration with Artsy.net, CNN released an article displaying and discussing William Eggleston's "color photos of the everyday" which were "shockingly banal."

The operative word here is "were." What was in the 1960s/1970s, no longer is. What was, is now refreshingly original---and what is, is painfully banal. The past becomes beautiful and cherished in the present. We thrive on nostalgia and the objects, images, and sounds of the past serve as a microdose to this addiction.

I must admit, the images made me think. Often when I see everyday images by fellow photographers, I think to myself "they have no style," "this is boring," "this isn't photography." I can only imagine similar things were said about Eggleston's work back in the day and moving forward I hope to view similar images with a different light. They don't need to conform to what I think is aesthetically beautiful---they are the artist. They decide.

Now, a little bit about William, which I'm lovingly ripping off of the Artsy article, which you can read here.

  • Eggleston is a Self-taught, Memphis-born photographer whose defiant works in color spoke to a habitual streak of rebellion. Eggleston was making vivid images of mundane scenes at a time when the only photographs considered to be art were in black and white.

  • He eventually made his way to NYC, bringing along a suitcase filled with color slides and prints taken around the Mississippi Delta. They were scenes of the low-slung homes, blue skies, flat lands, and ordinary people of the American South—all rendered in what would eventually become his iconic high-chroma, saturated hues.

  • Fellow photographers encouraged him to show his work to John Szarkowsk, the Museum of Modern Art's director of photography. Szarkowski was known for taking risks on artists---so he took a risk on Eggleston, claiming his images were "perfect."

  • Critics were less than enthused by Eggleston's showing claiming it was "one of the worst shows of the year." The New York Times referred to the images as "perfectly banal, perhaps...perfectly boring, certainly."

  • Eggleston didn't care what others said and kept on doing his thing. Today, he is known as one of the most important photographers still alive and his images easily sell for six figures, with his "Untitled, 1970" (see below) selling for $578,500---Still perfectly boring?

All images in this article are the work of William Eggleston.

Credit: Eggleston Artistic Trust/Courtesy Eggleston Artistic Trust and David Zwirner.

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