William Eggleston: Jamaica Botanical
33 photographs from the 1978 Jamaica Botanical Series Collection of The Grace Museum, Gift of Eddie Green
William Eggleston is an American photographer. He is widely credited with increasing recognition for color photography as a legitimate artistic medium. Eggleston’s books include William Eggleston’s Guide (1976) and The Democratic Forest (1989).
In the early 50s, William Eggleston (b. 1939 Memphis, TN.) became fascinated with Henri-Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment style of photography; a style that was the total antithesis of accepted, timeless subjects for fine art photography masters such as Ansel Adams. Over the next five decades, Eggleston continued to challenge aesthetic expectations to create a landmark body of work introducing generations of photographers to the complex, descriptive power of color-rich everyday subjects; a formula that was described as vulgar by black and white purists Walker Evans. At the time, color photography was the domain of vacation Polaroid images and snapshots.
In 1976, Eggleston changed the rules with his solo exhibition of color photography at the Museum of Modern Art. In the accompanying gallery guide, MoMA curator described Eggleston’s photographs as provocative and groundbreaking, stating, “these pictures are not photographs of color any more than they are photographs of shapes, textures, objects, symbols, or events, but rather photographs of experience, as it has been ordered and clarified within the structures imposed by the camera.”
This exhibition, Jamaica Botanical Series, is an opportunity to view rarely exhibited early work from 1978 by William Eggleston, one of the celebrated pioneers of color photography as a legitimate artistic medium. Take time to discover Eggleston’s signature experimentation with unusual perspectives, angles and vivid tonal coloration achieved through the expensive and time consuming printing dye-transfer process that involved three separate negatives for the primary colors of cyan, magenta and yellow, resulting in saturated colors unlike anything in found in other color photography. The Jamaica Botanical Series is composed of 33 chromogenic dye coupler prints of individual plants photographed in an informal, cropped, snap-shot style focusing on the interplay of light, color, and form of each rather than the expected rich tropical Jamaican landscape characteristic of Eggleston’s interest in the incidental and the commonplace, and his intent – “to capture the normal moment.” Everyday subjects are photographed as encountered. American screenwriter, director, producer, Sofia Coppola who worked with Eggleston noted, “It was the beauty of banal details that was inspirational.” Eggleston, still active in film and photography, currently lives in Memphis, Tennessee, on the northern edge of the Mississippi delta.
This series of early Eggleston color prints was gifted to the former Abilene Fine Arts Museum in 1982 by Eddie Green and this is the first time the photographs have been exhibited. The Grace Museum is very fortunate to have this important series of early color photography in The Grace Museum permanent art collection that now houses an important collection of more than 800 fine art photographs.
This project is supported by a grant from the Abilene Cultural Affairs Council and the City of Abilene.