After viewing an exhibit of William Eggleston’s photos at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, I came away with several questions about modern photography and Eggleston’s artistry.
With inexpensive, quality cameras available to the masses what does Eggleston capture that makes his photos worthy of exhibit? Is it that he takes pictures of what others don’t see or choose to ignore? With his “ordinary” style established in the mid-70’s, has the public and art critics accepted that anything Eggleston’s shoots becomes aesthetically interesting? Or does the fact that his photographs are so valuable that they sell for six figures and might get their own museum demonstrate that it’s not the camera but the eye looking through the lens that determines artistic value?
While billions of photos are uploaded to Facebook and flickr, it’s hard to measure the value of Eggleston’s photographs. I think his ability to make us examine the mundane leads to an appreciation of our world in a new way.
While everyone can agree that Ansel Adams’ photos of Yosemite are spectacular in terms of subject and skill, they are remote and other-worldly compared to Eggleston’s photos of a drink being stirred on an airplane or a kid pushing grocery carts Eggleston’s photos explore a world we recognize but don’t stop and see, thankfully William Eggleston does.
Do you see the beauty in Eggleston’s photos? Or are you left wondering why they get to hang on the same museum walls as Cezanne’s or Picasso’s?