EXHIBITION: William Eggleston portraits


I attended an OCA study day visit to the William Eggleston exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. This was my first viewing first hand of his work.

My personal response: Overall I was struck by the seemingly random nature of his images despite the everyday and familiar being the consistent subject matter. In seeking to understand his style I searched for other similarities. His framing, cropping, use of lines, composition and camera angles don’t seem to follow any pattern or style. Known of course for his experimental use of colour, this particular approach to colour, light and tonal range for me is the common denominator in his work. In the images at the exhibition his main subject is usually a vivid colour set against a dull or dark background, sometimes at odds with the background whilst occasionally in sympathy with the background. His colour appears most vivid on his dye transfer prints.


william-eggleston-1(Glover 2013)

The image below is my personal favorite from the exhibition. Both the woman and the post are similarly erect, in fact she exudes tautness and the movement of her hand adds to the rigidity of both her and the post and is actually quite eerie. I am aware that he warns against symbolic interpretations of his work.

william-eggleston-3 https://ushistorians.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/william-eggleston-memphis-c-1969-71-women-sitting.jpg

The impact his work may have on my practice

I will try using:

  • More unusual compositions and use of space in the frame
  • Horizons/leading lines that aren’t straight
  • Colourful subjects emphasized against dull backgrounds
  • Be conscious about the size of the subject in the frame and compared to surroundings according to the narrative I am setting


Michael Glover ( 2013) Genius in colour: Why William Eggleston is the world’s greatest photographer. The Independent online, April 22nd 2013 . Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/genius-in-colour-why-william-eggleston-is-the-world-s-greatest-photographer-8577202.html (Accessed 2.10.16)



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