William Eggleston Portraits (Exhibition)

William Eggleston Portraits is currently being exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery, it displays around 100 images from throughout Eggleston’s photographic career and is solely dedicated to his portraiture. Although I have only shown examples of colour images from the exhibition (which can be found on the National Portrait Gallery’s website) it also included black and white pieces, a sketchbook, video, 5×7 proofs and kodak instaprint polaroids. All the images were displayed in white frames and were a range of different sizes, from small polaroids to prints nearly as tall as me from his Nightclub portrait series.

The work throughout the exhibition was very varied and although Eggleston was at first wary of moving towards colour photography these are some of his best images, the way he shaped it into these vibrant photographs is mesmerising. The colours always look very golden with how warm the tones are.

Untitled, 1965 (Memphis, Tennessee)

 The image shown above Eggleston describes as his first ever successful colour photograph. The quality of this digitised version of the image doesn’t do the colour justice and I can see why he felt it was a success, the golden sunlight falling onto the man’s ginger hair creates a beautiful colour scheme for the image.

What I feel makes this exhibition fascinating is that I have never really thought of Eggleston as a portrait photographer as my very first experience of his images were landscapes. Now seeing all of his portraiture work in the flesh I can see exactly why he has been titled the master of colour and I found his work very influential. When looking at them it made me wish I carried my camera around with me more so that I can grab certain moments. Not all of his images are decisive moments however and some are staged or the subject is aware their photograph is being taken, yet they still feel natural, the subjects always look at ease in front of the camera.

Overall I found this exhibition very influential, Egglestons colour photography has inspired me to do more myself, as a photographer I have found myself leaning more towards black and white imagery but I will be sure to further explore the possibilities colour has to offer.



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