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William Eggleston - Portraits 1974

28 July - 14 October 2007

William Eggleston

William Eggleston: Untitled, 1974, pigment print on archival paper.  

This exhibition was the first showing of large-format colour photographs by William Eggleston, taken in 1974 on a 5 x 7 camera but only recently printed for the first time. The 24 archival pigment prints, which are all untitled and measure 30 x 20 inches, depict people (mostly strangers) and scenes found in and around Eggleston's home town of Memphis at a time when Eggleston was producing much of the work for which he later became recognised.

William Eggleston (born in 1939) has been called 'the father of colour photography' and is the photographer most associated with the introduction of commercially processed colour prints to contemporary art. His groundbreaking exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1976 was the first in the Museum's history to be devoted to this medium and his influence is still felt today.

William Eggleston

William Eggleston: Untitled, 1974, pigment print on archival paper.  

A native Southerner raised on a cotton plantation in the Mississippi Delta, Eggleston has created a singular portrait of his native South since the late 1960s. His photographs monumentalise everyday subjects and although he began his career making black-and-white images, he soon abandoned them to experiment with colour technology. His ability to find beauty in everyday places and people has changed the way we look at the world and his unerring sense of composition and colour is all the more remarkable when we learn that typically, he takes only one exposure of a particular subject.

It is exactly fifty years since William Eggleston acquired his first camera and the photographs in this exhibition were taken during a particularly significant time in his career. During the previous year he had begun to use the dye-transfer printing process which had until then only been used for commercial photography work, and had completed the photographs that were to launch his career at the Museum of Modern Art several years later. In 1974 he also received a Guggenheim Fellowship and was appointed Lecturer in Visual and Environmental Studies at The Carpenter Centre, Harvard University.

In the same year he presented his first solo show (in Washington D.C.) and his photographs were first published, as a limited-edition portfolio, 14 Pictures. He was shooting videotape footage for his only film - edited some thirty years later to become Stranded in Canton (1974/2005) and he had acquired a 5 x 7 camera to take black- and- white photographs in nightclubs in and around Memphis. It was this camera which he also used during the daytime to take the colour photographs which appear in this exhibition. Eggleston's film Stranded in Canton was screened in the Wash-House, next to Inverleith House.

The type of camera used to take these pictures is very large, in order to accommodate the sheets of film, which measure 5 x 7 inches - and is typically used for specialised studio, landscape or architectural work, supported on a tripod. The size of the image, which is many times larger than in the 'standard' 35mm format used in most film cameras, produces an image with the capacity for enormous detail and this is reflected in the prints, which have been produced from the original negatives (at a studio in Washington D.C., favoured by Eggleston), using state-of-the-art technology.

In recent years, examples of Eggleston's previously unknown work have begun to be seen through exhibitions at; the Cartier Foundation, Paris, (William Eggleston, 2001, touring to the Hayward Gallery, London), Cheim & Read, New York (Precolor, 2004, Nightclub Portraits 1973, 2005) and Victoria Miro Gallery, London (Dust Bells, 2004). Portraits 1974 was the first exhibition to be devoted entirely to such images in colour.

Awards include; The Hasselblad Award, 1998, the Gold Medal for Photography (National Arts Club), 2003 and the prestigious Getty Images Lifetime Achievement Award, 2004. Collections include; the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

William Eggleston

William Eggleston: Untitled, 1974, pigment print on archival paper.  

We wish to thank William Eggleston, Winston Eggleston and Caldecott Chubb of the Eggleston Artistic Trust and also extend our warmest thanks to Juergen Teller, for permission to exhibit his portrait William Eggleston 1, Memphis 2004, at the first floor entrance.

All works by Eggleston are Untitled, 1974, 30 x 24 inches/76.2 x 61 centimetres. Pigment print on archival paper.

All works © 2007 Eggleston Artistic Trust, courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read, New York.

The exhibition is presented in association with Cheim & Read, New York and Victoria Miro, London.

William Eggleston

William Eggleston: Untitled, 1974, pigment print on archival paper.  

William Eggleston

William Eggleston: Untitled, 1974, pigment print on archival paper.  

For further information about the exhibitions or events, please ask at the reception desk or contact Inverleith House

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