Photographing the ‘Ugly,’ the History and Photography of William Eggleston ~ James Maher

William Eggleston may be one of the most celebrated and misunderstood photographers in history. Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1939 and raised in Mississippi, Eggleston was an introverted man born into a wealthy aristocratic family of former plantation owners.

Eggleston was influenced by Robert Frank’s The Americans, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment, and Walker Evan’s American Photographs. However, he struggled early on with finding his subject matter. He thought of Memphis as an ugly place and not the type of rich environment that Cartier-Bresson and other photographers frequented. Then one day, he told a friend that there was nothing to photograph because everything surrounding him was ugly, and the friend told him to photograph ’the ugly stuff. Great Ideas…

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