William Eggleston was born on July 27, 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in Sumner, Mississippi. At the age of fifteen, Eggleston was sent to the Webb School, a boarding establishment In Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Eggleston attended Vanderbilt University for a year, Delta State College for a semester, and the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) for approximately five years, none of this experience resulting in a college degree. However, it was during these university years that his interest in photography took root: a friend at Vanderbilt gave Eggleston a Leica camera. Eggleston studied art at Ole Miss and was introduced to abstract expressionism by a visiting painter from New York named Tom Young.
Eggleston taught at Harvard in 1973 and 1974, and it was during these years that he discovered dye-transfer printing; he was examining the price list of a photographic lab in Chicago when he read about the process. At Harvard, Eggleston prepared his first portfolio, entitled 14 Pictures (1974), which consisted of fourteen dye-transfer prints. Eggleston’s work was featured in an exhibition at MoMA in 1976, which was accompanied by the volume William Eggleston’s Guide. The MoMA show is regarded as a watershed moment in the history of photography, by marking “the acceptance of colour photography by the highest validating institution” (in the words of Mark Holborn).
Eggleston’s was the first one-person exhibition of color photographs in the history of MoMA. Around the time of his 1976 MoMA exhibition, Eggleston was introduced to Viva, the Andy Warhol “superstar”, with whom he began a long relationship.
In the seventies, Eggleston experimented with video, producing several hours of roughly edited footage Eggleston calls Stranded in Canton.
William Eggleston’s Guide was followed by other books and portfolios, including Los Alamos (actually completed in 1974, before the publication of the Guide) the massive Election Eve (1976; a portfolio of photographs taken around Plains, Georgia before that year’s presidential election); The Morals of Vision (1978); Flowers (1978); Wedgwood Blue (1979); Seven (1979); Troubled Waters (1980); The Louisiana Project (1980); William Eggleston’s Graceland (1984) The Democratic Forest (1989); Faulkner’s Mississippi (1990), and Ancient and Modern ( 1992).
Eggleston also worked with filmmakers, photographing the set of John Huston’s film Annie (1982) and documenting the making of David Byrne’s film True Stories (1986). He is the subject of Michael Almereyda’s recent documentary portrait William Eggleston in the Real World (2005). In 2008, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York co-organized with Haus der Kunst in Munich, the retrospective exhibition William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008.
The earliest commercial use of Eggleston’s art was in the album covers for the Memphis group Big Star who used the famous Red Ceiling image on their album Radio City. Later records also had other Eggleston images, including the dolls on a Cadillac hood featured on the cover of the classic Alex Chilton album Like Flies on Sherbert. The Primal Scream album Give out But Don’t Give Up features a cropped photograph of a neon confederate flag and a palm tree by Eggleston. In 1994, Eggleston allowed his long-time friend and fellow photographer Terry Manning to use two Eggleston photographs for the front and back covers of the CD release of Christopher Idylls, an album of ethereal acoustic guitar music produced by Manning and performed by another Eggleston friend, Gimmer Nicholson.
In 2006, a William Eggleston image was coincidentally used as both the cover to Primal Scream’s single “Country Girl” and the paperback edition of Ali Smith’s novel The Accidental. The same picture had already been used on the cover of Chuck Prophet’s Age of Miracles album in 2004.
In 2001, William Eggleston’s photograph Memphis (1968) was used as the cover of Jimmy Eat World’s top-selling album Bleed American. Eggleston’s photos also appear on Tanglewood Numbers by the Silver Jews, Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band by Joanna Newsom and Transference by Spoon.
William Eggleston is an American photographer. He is widely credited with securing recognition for color photography as a legitimate artistic medium to display in art galleries.
“William Egglestonâ€, Wikipedia
Biography from the Archives of AskART.