Direct from the National Portrait Gallery in London, the National Gallery of Victoria presents the Australian premiere of William Eggleston Portraits, the first major exhibition devoted to the portraits of the ground-breaking American photographer, who is regarded as a pioneer of colour photography.
The exhibition brings together more than 100 works by Eggleston, who is renowned for his vivid, poetic and enigmatic images of people in diners, petrol stations, phone booths and supermarkets.
Highlights include Eggleston’s hypnotic portraits of locals taken in towns across the American South, a previously unseen image of The Clash frontman Joe Strummer, and a never-before-exhibited portrait of the actor and photographer Dennis Hopper. The exhibition also comprises a selection of never-before-seen vintage black and white photographs from the 1960s taken in and around the artist’s home in Memphis, Tennessee.
Eggleston is celebrated for his use of colour photography, which he began experimenting with in the late 1960s. Eggleston’s 1976 exhibition Colour Photographs, held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is considered a pivotal moment in the development of colour photography as a contemporary art form and widely credited with increasing recognition of the medium.
Since first picking up a camera in 1957, Eggleston has photographed his family, friends and the people that he encountered in his everyday life, particularly in his native Memphis. Eggleston is said to find the beauty in the everyday and his work has inspired many present day photographers, artists and filmmakers, including Martin Parr, Sofia Coppola, David Lynch and Juergen Teller.
“The work of William Eggleston has made an indelible impact of the medium of photography through his groundbreaking and striking use of colour.” said said Tony Ellwood, Director NGV. “Eggleston’s images reveal the hidden beauty in our day to day lives and have an powerful, vibrant aesthetic that has influenced many subsequent generations.”
William Eggleston Portraits features friends, musicians, actors and rarely seen images of Eggleston’s own family. It provides a unique window on the artist’s home life, allowing visitors to see how public and private portraiture came together in Eggleston’s work. It also reveals, for the first time, the identities of many sitters who have until now remained anonymous.
Between 1960 and 1965, Eggleston worked exclusively in black and white. People were his primary subject, caught unawares while going about ordinary tasks. In the 1970s, Eggleston increasingly frequented the Memphis night club scene, developing friendships and getting to know musicians and artists. His fascination with club culture resulted in the experimental video, Stranded in Canton – a selection of which is on view at the exhibition. Stranded in Canton chronicles visits to bars in Memphis, Mississippi and New Orleans.
Eggleston is renowned for his experimentation with dye-transfer printing, a commercial printing technique that produces highly saturated colour images. The use of this technique resulted in some of Eggleston’s most arresting and vibrant photographs, including the Untitled photograph showing Frank Zition sitting alone on a motel room bed.
Also on display will be a monumental, one and a half metre wide print of the artist’s uncle, Adyn Schuyler Senior, with his assistant Jasper Staples in Cassidy Bayou, Mississippi and Devoe Money in Jackson, Mississippi from the landmark book Eggleston’s Guide (1976).
William Eggleston Portraits is presented as part of the inaugural NGV Festival of Photography – the largest display of photography in the Gallery’s history. Presented across multiple galleries at both NGV International and NGV Australia, the festival will also feature solo exhibitions by Bill Henson, Patrick Pound, Zoë Croggon and Ross Coulter, alongside dedicated displays, events and programs.
William Eggleston Portraits
NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia
Exhibition: 17 March – 18 June 2017
For more information, visit: www.ngv.vic.gov.au for details.
Image: William Eggleston, Untitled, 1965-8 (detail), Dye-transfer print, printed 2004, 305 x 451mm. Wilson Centre for Photography © Eggleston Artistic Trust