I’m linking today to an essay on William Eggelston called The Tender-Cruel Camera written by Thomas Weski. Here’s an excerpt.
The choice of subject matter seemed to some critics to be totally indiscriminate, as though William Eggleston has applied no criteria at all. ‘Eggleston’s photographs often seem to have been taken not by a photographer but by a motorized camera swinging around the photographer’s head on a string. Whatever happens to be in front of the lens when the shutter was tripped got photographed. Whatever was not, did not.’ But even this negatively meant criticism reveals a further important aspect of Eggleston’s work, namely his democratic approach to the subject matter. Eggleston speaks again and again of the ‘democratic camera’ which considers every object worthy of depiction. Naturally, this seemingly impersonal way of seeing things makes no distinction between ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’. In other words, William Eggleston does not operate with the usual visual hierarchies, but rather accepts those motifs which illustrate his concept correctly.
Crop from the image that launched my own moment of recognition here in California by the Los Angeles Center of Photography. The uncropped version of this shot was selected to appear at the LACP’s first juried Member’s Exhibition.
This is almost an example of photography that you can barely take credit for. lol. Who can claim to have created something that depends so much on the fact that this woman bought this jacket at some moment in her life probably years before I even bought the camera that took the picture.
How much does the image depend on the fact that this lady decided to wear this jacket on this day and be just at that very moment stepping from the sun into the dark shadow of a doorway? So the shot is almost a miraculous piece of luck.
That said, I think this crop captures the gestalt effect more perfectly than any photograph I’ve ever seen. I can’t take any responsibility for that because I’m sure it wasn’t my intention to make an image of that sort. I saw colors and contrast and a good subject and that was it until I looked at the image later.
Anyway. Hope you enjoy this! Thank you all for visiting!
“The basic condition of the voyeuristic scenario is distance, an essential separation between seer and seen. Despite this distance, which is by definition unbridgeable, despite the unrequitable nature of the desire that drives it, the voyeur’s gaze is a privileged one.”
Great book I highly recommend called Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography by Roswell Angier. The quote above is from TYG. Almost by anyone’s definition it is not a book on portrait photography. It is really an analysis of contemporary art photography as well as some of the classic but nevertheless quite daring, in their time, 20th century photographers.
The chapter on voyeurism begins with a quote by Walker Evans, certainly an idol of mine and countless other photographers.
“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”
Here is a link to the great website American Suburb X and a group of street photos by newly discovered street photography master Helen Levitt. The difference between these pictures and the vast majority of her other previously shown work is that these images are in amazing color.
Seeing those images this morning inspired me to share some of my recent shots. You know, I’ve always thought of myself as a black and white street photographer. But I rarely shoot black and white street photography. I really have done very little in B&W over the last ten years. I think I have to come to terms with the fact that I’m a street photographer who works primarily in color.
Color is the only way to capture the parts of Los Angeles I continue to want to shoot most. Hope these images from my Leica M-E capture both the timeless grit and the gripping palate of colors of life in LA in 2013.