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The New William Eggleston Exhibition You Need To See

April 2019Words by Mr Oli Stratford

Untitled, c. 1977, by Mr William Eggleston. Courtesy Eggleston Artistic Trust and David Zwirner. © Eggleston Artistic Trust

“You know, William, colour is bullshit.”

It is one of those fortuitous moments in photographic history that Mr William Eggleston chose to ignore this piece of career advice. Having just begun his experiments with colour photography in the early 1970s, Mr Eggleston might have expected a little encouragement when he attended a party at which the great humanist photographer Mr Henri Cartier-Bresson was present: “You know, William…”

Today, Mr Eggleston is widely celebrated as the most influential artist in the elevation of colour photography as an art form, and a practitioner whose trailblazing work helped drive its acceptance by an art establishment reluctant to embrace its potential. A spot of luck, then, that Mr Eggleston had the self-confidence to reject Mr Cartier-Bresson’s assessment of the medium. Born in 1939 on a former cotton plantation in Memphis, Tennessee, he is said to have greeted the unwelcome advice with a degree of Southern civility. “I said, ‘Excuse me,’ and left the table,” he later recalled. “I thought it was the most polite thing to do.”