I wandered to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art this evening after work (it’s free on the second Tuesday of each month) and stumbled onto an exhibition on the photographer William Eggleston. It was a moment of serendipity. His photography was beautiful and desolate, stylized in a manner that I’d seen copied many times, but always incorrectly. It wasn’t until tonight that I knew the honestly gorgeous source of those lesser impressions.
I came home half-thinking that I’d use one of his photos as the wallpaper on my laptop, but after looking again his images I realized this would be pointless, and a little sacrilegious.
Eggleston photographs everyday items that don’t command attention in the everyday. He did most of his work between the sixties and the eighties, primarily in the Deep South, where he was born. It was there that he developed his focus on Americana, though Americana that has more to do with Biblical Gomorrah than Bible Belt Memphis.
None of Eggleston’s work is gratuitous. He never goes for shock or a violent impression, even when photographing ostensibly shocking material. Instead, his art is in capturing the horrifying stillness of the mundane. It’s like Eggleston’s camera draws the ghosts from whatever objects comes within its frame. In his portraits you can almost hear the refrigerator hum in the background as it rises to the point of cacophony.
Eggleston’s photography wouldn’t fit well into the background of anything; it’s far to elegant and disturbing to be anything but the absolute center of attention.