“There are four simple words on the matter, which must be whispered: Color photography is vulgar.”
Walker Evans about color photography (1969)
1. “The Colourful Mr. Eggleston” – Documentary from the BBC “Imagine Series” presented by Alan Yentob
Remarkable film about one of the most influential and famous photographers alive. Keeping in mind that William Eggleston is not very fond of talking about his work, this documentary gives a rare glimpse at the man who very often is referred to as the father of color photography. The film shows footage of Eggleston shooting in his hometown Memphis, Tennessee. About his way of working, he says:
“I do have a personal discipline. I’ve only taken one picture of one thing – not two. I would take more than one and get so confused later trying to figure out what was the best frame. That’s ridiculous.”
William Eggleston, born in 1939, started out taking black and white photographs. Later he turned to color photography, which Walker Evans called “vulgar” – and even dared to call it art – as opposed to the general belief in the art world at that time that photography considered art had to be black and white.
Eggleston’s first single exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 1976 was a sensation. But critics were harsh. They called the first exhibition of color photographs in the prestigious museum “dreadful” and “boring”. But looking back, Eggleston’s MoMA exhibition marked a turning point in the history of photography – and the grumpy, aristocratic artist has turned into a legend. Generations of young photographers have tried to follow his footsteps: taking pictures of the banal – and turning them into art.
2. “In The Real World”
Intimate portrait of William Eggleston. Director Michael Almereyda succeeds in showing the connection between Eggleston’s character and his outstanding work. This film really gets to the heart of one of photography’s most fascinating figures and therefore deserves to rank among the best photography movies ever made. Everybody interested in the genre should have watched “In The Real World”.
3. “Stranded in Canton”
Watching this film about William Eggleston and his photography you actually need quite a lot of patience. In 1973, before he rose to fame, Eggleston played around with a Sony PortaPak taping life in Memphis and New Orleans. Raw and stark images – very slow. Life itself.
4. Interview with William Eggleston
Michael Almereyda, director of the photography movie “In The Real World”, conducting an interview with William Eggleston at the opening of his show “William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008” at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Among other things, Eggleston confesses that very often there was a very special link between him and his subjects of his image. He also reveals why he switched into color:
“It never was a conscious thing. I had wanted to see a lot of things in color because the world is in color.”
5. William Eggleston playing the piano
The great photographer showing his talent as a musician and his love for classical music.
If you are interested in more films about other famous photographer, you’ll enjoy the collection of the 10 best photography movies.
Check out my photography podcast – conversations with inspiring photographers from around the globe sharing their secrets for creating amazing images. It’s mostly in German, but here are some episodes in English:
Valerie Jardin: “Street Photography – Creative Vision Behind The Lens”
Dmitry Stepanenko: “Heavy Color” Street Photography
Jason Koxvold: “Knives” – Left Behind In Rural America”
Dyanne Wilson: Chasing The Northern Lights In Yellowknife
Luc Kordas: Loneliness In New York