Last night I watched ” William Eggleston in the Real World,” a documentary on American photographer William Eggleston. I had never heard the name when I was looking for photography films to fill my empty Netflix queue. But as soon as I turned it on, I was intrigued. A man a named Bill was wandering around the streets of a plain and boring town with his camera. He studied business walkways, graffiti on the walls, signs all around, trash. I might appreciate his style, I thought, still unaware of how his photographs look. He just seemed to admire the gritty, unique and seemingly boring elements of the world around him — something I try to do even when people say, “why are you taking a picture of that?”
Then, some of his photos played across my TV screen, many of the ones I’ve shared above. I liked how they were raw and rich in their simplicity. On the film, they described Eggleston’s photos as being the dog’s-eye view — childrens’ toys, trash and dirty shoes under the bed, each given some kind of poetic importance.
As the images played and Eggleston was recorded photographing pinatas and abandoned houses and more signs, the narrator (a colleague or his son, I’m not sure) talked about the lack of appreciation people had for his art in his early years. Though it his photographs were meant to be a fragment or glimpse that seem to reflect a whole, wider truth, a New York Times review called his show “perfectly boring.” Even Ansel Adams was dismayed at the photographs on the gallery walls.
I don’t know if it’s “correct,” but I love his style. Love it. To describe it, they said Eggleston “tends to photograph only the most obvious stuff on the planet … the unspectacular, random, ephemeral stuff on the edge of roads and on suburban driveways.”
In the end, these tiny pieces of every day life are given iconic stature.
I don’t know if a lot of people know about Eggleston. I feel a little jipped because even though I went to three high schools, none of them had photography. I have two college degrees, but have never studied art, art history or photography or any of the great photographers or artist. But I do know what I like. And I’ve liked Eggleston for a long time, even without knowing his name. His photos, including the very top one I’ve posted, is still hanging in my purple bedroom at my dad’s house, along with others. I ripped the double-page spread from a magazine and gazed at it for years.
“In the Real World” wasn’t the best film I’ve ever seen, but it did inspire me to embrace my call to the randomness on the streets and to be a little braver and not care what people say (he photographed people on the train as if he were alone).