not Poet of the mundane


“Poet of the mundane.” That’s what the LACMA press material calls photographer William Eggleston, and that’s how “the Eggleston legend” usually goes: Reclusive Southern gentleman, a soft-spoken, polite savant out of the pages of Eudora Welty or William Faulkner, turns his camera on the neglected vistas of Memphis and environs and in the process makes color photography safe for museums. It’s a neat legend, one that is readily available to anyone trying to describe the genius of Eggleston’s photographs, and one that has helped Eggleston craft his public persona to this day. But the Eggleston legend, that shorthand way of describing his considerable achievement, papers over all the delicious contradictions that define the photographer’s unique journey. That journey has been on display at LACMA for a couple of months as “William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008.” You have only two weeks left to experience it, and you most certainly should. But this “poet of the mundane” business can be reductive and, in a sense, limits a complex appreciation of the photographer’s craft.

more from Gustavo Turner at the LA Weekly here.