William Eggleston, master photographer of nothing. I just received the book “William Eggleston: Portraits” that is currently showing at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Being a lifelong Eggleston fan I new I was going to appreciate the work but I will admit it is different than the usual work that we have come to expect from him.
The greatest hits that we have come to expect are here but the majority of the images are not familiar to even fans of William Eggleston’s work. Many of the early black and white images might not be even recognized as his work. The style is so different that one is forced to realize that Eggleston was not born with has signature style and that it was developed over time.
Once the work switches to color the work seems to achieve more depth and excitement. If the was ever a photographer who was destined for color photography it was William Eggleston. He has such a master of color work. He can slam you in the face with bright garish colors or tiptoe around the edge and use just splashes of color to decorate an image.
The work is very good but there are a few misses. This book would not be recommended as an introduction to Eggleston’s work. It is probably because limiting him to just portraits does not do justice to him because of the wide range of subject matter that is seen in his other books. Critics of Eggleston’s work are going to point to this book and say “See, much ado about nothing”. For better or worse every book that has his name on it is going to be compared to his majestic book “ William Eggleston’s Guide”. That is ok because that work has already been done, and good or bad, these images are going to be copied and inspire photographers for generations to come.