Sunday, March 24, 2013

Los Alamos

Los Alamos is a collection of images taken by William Eggleston between 1965 and 1974 as he traveled through Southern and Western America.  The book, first published in 2003 to accompany an exhibition at the Ludwig Museum in Germany, presents a selection of prints from a collection of some 2,200 negatives produced by Eggleston during this period.

Los Alamos provides us with further evidence of Eggleston innate attentiveness in capturing the life of the ordinary.  He photographed everyday life, objects and environments, recording them in their richness and unadorned states. 

These images of life never feel like they are studies but more like extended glances into the familiar.  The mundane and ordinary subject matter make the images accessible and understandable.  We’ve seen these things, these people before but maybe not like this. 

Untitled, 1965

This accessibility is further enhanced by the lack of depth and narrow perspective used by Eggleston.  He provides us with a human viewpoint. They are glimpses that we may have made ourselves but now we question whether we really ever saw what was there.  He reminds us that the ordinary is not so ordinary and that there is much vibrancy in the everyday.

Untitled, 1971 

It is this vibrancy and intensity that sets these images apart.  And it is Eggleston’s use of colour that achieves this.  Eggleston used colour at a time when it was only considered suitable for amateur photos or glossy commercial advertisements. It was at a time when "professional" photographers only took pictures in black-and-white. 

Black & White are the colours of photography – Robert Frank

Colour photography allowed Eggleston to use and control colour like a painter may.  Photography, for him, was always an extension of his love for the visual arts.  In 1973 Eggleston had discovered the now out-dated dye-transfer process.  It was a process predominantly used in the advertising industry during the 50s and 60s. The process resulted in giving specific colour’s enhanced saturation and increased intensity. With colour photography and his new found process Eggleston now had the tools to bring the ordinary and mundane to life. 

He shoots like a shutterbug and executes like a painter – Peter Schjeldahl

Eggleston draws us into his frames with his focused, targeted use of primary colour.  We are never left in doubt what or whom the subject of the photo is.  
Untitled [and] Untitled

The sky is used often like a curtain backdrop helping to contrast the show in front.  The intensity of the blue providing us with a frame for his subject matter.

Untitled, 1971

The intensity of Eggleton’s colours are rarely matched by the intensity of life underneath.  There are always signs of deterioration of wear and tear, whether it is a car, a sign, a face.  We are reminded of the fragility of ordinary life.  There are always cracks on the surface but maybe we sometime don’t notice them.  Eggleston ensures that we never bore of the mundane and the ordinary and reminds us that is such vibrancy and intensity to what we see everyday.

Untitled, 1965-1968