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May 23, 2016

37 Breathtaking Color Photographs of the American South Taken by William Eggleston in the Late 1960s and Early 1970s

Until the 1970s, color photography was considered inappropriate for the artwork. Only black and white photographs met the standards of art critics. But then came William Eggleston and showed that color images can have a place in modern art. The colors in Eggleston’s photos are saturated and intense, the characters pose in front of the camera, and traditional ideas about photographic composition are abandoned.

Eggleston is one of the most influential photographers of the latter half of the 20th century, credited with pioneering fine art color photography in his iconic depictions of the American South. Born in 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee to a family of well-to-do plantation owners, and grew up in Sumner, Mississippi, most of his photos have been taken in the South, where he splits his time between his wife and family in one house and his mistress in another.

Eggleston's early photographic efforts were inspired by the work of Robert Frank, and by Henri Cartier-Bresson's book, The Decisive Moment. He attended at various times Vanderbilt University, Delta State College, and the University of Mississippi, but never graduated. He began experimenting with color film in the 1960s, developing a signature style combining a snapshot aesthetic with Southern Gothic imagery. A predecessor to Martin Parr, Nan Goldin, and other documentary photographers working in color, Eggleston’s dye-transfer prints elevated quotidian activities to high art.

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