Essays On Color

Essays On Color-72
The net result of this combination between a street photographer’s American vernacular style and the use of color created pictures that were once described, rather lyrically, by John Szarkowski, as: …fascinating partly because they contradict our expectations.Image: Eggleston Artist Trust My copy of Diana and Nikon proves Malcolm’s point; the book is not in color.

The net result of this combination between a street photographer’s American vernacular style and the use of color created pictures that were once described, rather lyrically, by John Szarkowski, as: …fascinating partly because they contradict our expectations.Image: Eggleston Artist Trust My copy of Diana and Nikon proves Malcolm’s point; the book is not in color.

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But William Eggleston seemed not to care about such boundaries and distinctions.

He wanted his pictures to be in color, and that was that.

That’s to say, he was (and remains) deeply uninterested in the traditional painterly or photographic notions of composition.

This creates photographs that can look, at first glance, almost indifferent.

Look, for instance, at Walker Evans’ photo of a gas station: Or Dorothea Lange’s picture of men sitting on a bench in Depression-era San Francisco: This American vernacular style continued into the 1960s ‘street photography’ of photographers like Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand.

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Janet Malcolm calls this “Photo-Realism.” She writes in her “Color” essay that Eggleston takes us deep into Photo-Realist country and that such country “is defined by the presence of recently made structures, machines, and objects; by people dressed in clothes of the cheap, synthetic, democratic sort; by the signs and the leavings of fast food, fast gas, fast obsolescence; by the inclusion of the very parts of the landscape that photographers used to try to eliminate, edging the bridal couple away from the parked cars, angling the lens to exclude the Laundromat sign encroaching on the quiet tree-lined street.” Working within this Photo-Realist tradition, Eggleston’s special contribution was his decision to abandon black and white and shoot his photos in color. If you look at the street shot of a pregnant woman hailing a cab by Garry Winogrand, you’ll notice that there is very little to distinguish the picture from any number of snapshots taken by any number of amateur photographers.

Steichen photographed the teacup against different variations of white and black backgrounds.

He was studying his art, trying to get the nuances of light and contrast just right.

In her “Color” essay, Malcolm brings up a compelling practical reason for Eggleston’s preference.

She makes the following observation about a photograph from “William Eggleston’s Guide” (the book published alongside Eggleston’s 1976 show at Mo MA) of an aged woman smoking a cigarette while sitting outside on a chaise.

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