How does a bicycle become a pinnacle of childhood? How do scenes from Tennessee strike a chord deep into our subconscious memories of afternoons? The answer might lie in the point of view of Eggleston, shooting the bicycle from a child’s perspective in order to make it bigger than life. Or it may lie in the color and saturation of Eggleston’s Kodak prints. Before him, black and white photography was all but the norm. Kodak was able to provide Eggleston with saturated inks to hand dye his photographs, bringing color photography to light.
Veronica Huerta Foster
Indeed! How does the point of view of an ant become the point of view of a child? (By the way, does childhood have a pinnacle?)
It was Eggleston the adult who lent us his mind’s eye, to show us something more in the realm of science fiction than a childhood memory. At any rate, he would never have chosen to illustrate an ideation so treacly as that, not from any living thing’s perspective.
His was the point of view of an artist illustrating, if not glorifying, something rather ordinary; perhaps for no other reason than the obviousness of its ordinariness; and to show that the homely things we take for granted can appear alien — or perhaps depict his own feelings of alienation — by putting it in your face, unexpectedly in color and larger than life — out of context.
It is also a portrait. Or, if you prefer, a still life of — it’s not a bicycle! — a tricycle.
As much as anything else, though, the subject of this photograph is about becoming consciously aware of banality, which is enhanced by the subject’s juxtaposition with its architectural and geographic surroundings; an insidiously complex composition.
What the hell are you talking about when you refer to “Eggleston’s Kodak prints?” Do you know if they were made on Kodak paper and by what color process? Do you presume someone affiliated with the Eastman Kodak Company actually made his prints? And you’ve got a lot of nerve implying that his photographs were “hand dyed,” let alone to assert that Kodak chemistry had anything to do with some hypothetical sort of “saturated inks.” Nope. There were no photographic processes that used ink per se in those days. There was no inkjet printing. Besides, Eggleston’s prints were famous for their low contrast, pastel quality. And they were handmade, one at a time (but not dyed for heaven’s sake).
It amazes me how many naive wannabe photographers assume they have something to say about photography’s history, who have probably never beheld an actual photograph in their hands or seen one framed on a wall, instead looking at the simulacra of real photographs on a screen. I don’t know if you have. But too many I’ve met have not.
I’m glad you like the work of William Eggleston. But read some informed criticism before you trivialize his work in a primer about color and composition. There are many critics better qualified than I. But I do have a modicum of experience; enough to beg you to learn a little bit about photography before you try to write about it.