Color photography wasn’t always considered art — at least not the sort of elevated art embraced by galleries and museums. That all changed with lensman William Eggleston, an early pioneer of the medium whose lush dye-transfer prints of typically mundane scenes — gas stations, backyards, supermarkets — dazzled and captivated the eye.
New Yorkers, see for yourself at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is currently hosting an exhibit of his early works, taken between 1965 to 1974. William Eggleston: Los Alamos, open until May 28th, features images from both his native stomping grounds in the Mississippi Delta as well as those taken on road trips around the U.S. with friends Walter Hopps and Dennis Hopper. There are 75 photographs in all — including Eggleston’s very first color snapshot — and they’re intriguingly interspersed with his own revealing quotations. Here, a few of our favorite lines.
“When I am not working with photography, I play the piano. I take it easy. And I worry.”
“I don’t have a burning desire to go out and document anything. It just happens when it happens. It’s not a conscious effort, nor is it a struggle. Wouldn’t do it if it was. The idea of the suffering artist has never appealed to me. Being here is suffering enough.”
“I think of [the photographs] as parts of a novel I’m doing.”
“I do have a personal discipline…. I only ever take one picture of one thing. Literally. Never two. So then that picture is taken and then the next one is waiting somewhere else.”
“I am at war with the obvious.”
“I’d assumed that I could do in color what I could do in black and white, and I got a swift harsh lesson. All bones bared. But it had to be.”
“Often people ask me what I am photographing. It’s a hard question to answer. And the best I have come up with is I just say ‘life today.’ I don’t know if they believe me or not. Or what that means.”