Friday, January 14, 2011

William Eggleston

A simple street running past a plain house, this image is transformed by the cold, wet, predawn atmosphere of the picture. There is nothing extraordinary about the subject; the attraction is in the lighting. The color almost looks like a tint and, except for a slight warming in the middle of the street, the same effect could be achieved by tinting a black and white photograph. With out the color, the image would still be just as intriguing and mysterious, but it would not have the same cold morning feel that this gives me. I think I like the use of the color for the place setting; it adds an extra piece of information. The large amount of void black in the bottom left bothers me, although the reflective bit of wall does serve to break it up just enough to make it passable. 

The first thing to draw me to this picture is the strong composition. It seems pretty basic, the two descending verticals leading towards the vanishing points of the four receding lines that radiate out of the center of the right half of the image. It is a simple and eloquent handling of the classic vanishing railroad. The color is a warm wash of low sunlight. The orange light brings out the yellows of the fall trees and the brown and red in the rust and decay on the tracks and posts. In black and white, the image would be far more abstracted; there would be no way off guessing time of year and day. Though it would still work in black and white, it would be far less interesting and would need a lot more contrast. 

Of all the Eggleston photos I looked at, the subject and possible 'meaning' of this held my attention far longer then any of the others. In his typical everyday style, the image is of something totally normal even obnoxiously mundane, the back of a woman's head. What makes this picture interesting is the presence of the she blots out, made apparent by the hand holding a cigarette on the opposite side of the table. In terms of color, the two dominate colors are the red of the brick and the faded green on the booths. Shades of pink and red flow through the table, the woman's shirt, and the menu. This juxtaposition of complimentary colors adds a strange tension that would not be there were the picture in black and white. I especially like the clash between the light green and the pink of the woman's shirt. Another intriguing correlation is drawn between the cigarettes that both the figures hold. These slight gestures bring the eye around that side, leading back towards the middle while some not vignetting contains the upper corners. 

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