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August 5, 2016

The World According to Eggleston

by Julieta Lucca

William Eggleston Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, 21st July - 23rd October 2016

It’s not that often that we can see our thoughts and beliefs reflected in someone else’s work so vividly that a cloud of nostalgia and what-ifs become our centre of attention for a couple of days.

At least, that’s what I thought of when I visited William Eggleston’s collection of 100 images at the National Portrait Gallery.

© National Portrait Gallery, London; photo by Victoria Miller

Prior to that day, I had never heard or seen Eggleston’s work. And that’s partly why I love what this experience brought into my life. The feeling of connection with someone and their work that happened at that moment in time. It wasn’t meant to happen before or after that, but just there and then.

What really took me by surprise is Eggleston’s fascination with the ordinary subject matter, something I’ve been quite obsessed with for a long time as well. He finds complexity and beauty within the mundane world. He makes everyday life extraordinary by capturing a second in time in the rawest and most natural way.

William Eggleston was born in July 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in Mississippi. He was known for being introverted and drawn to postcards and magazines from an early age. After organically falling into photography, he has been recognised as one of the pioneers of colour photography in the 70s.

His exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1976 marks the moment in time when colour photography was accepted and regarded as art.

The National Portrait Gallery’s collection of Eggleston’s work is a real tribute to 70s colour photography. It highlights his most powerful work by shining a light on his process and uniqueness as an artist, of which many others have taken inspiration from.

You might leave the gallery thinking, “those pictures don’t look like they were taken in the 60s and 70s…”, and you are right. In our minds, the 70s look like fuzzy over-exposed, yellowish pictures. Having someone rewire our brains to realise the 70s looked like our normal day to day life is kinda breathtaking.

Don’t forget to pop by the bookshop to pick up some postcards or better yet a copy of William Eggleston Portraits (£29.95) the exhibition’s catalogue encasing some of his well-known work as well as never seen before images and with an appreciation by Sofia Coppola.

  • William Eggleston Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery runs until the 23rd October.
  • Opened Daily 10.00 – 18.00. Thursdays and Fridays until 21.00 as part of the Late Shift.
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