William Eggleston’s photographs are like snapshots of the American subconscious. They show everyday life in a way that is both ordinary and extraordinary.
His photographs often feature mundane objects and scenes but are imbued with a sense of magic and wonder. Eggleston is considered one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century.
A major exhibition of Eggleston’s work is on view at the KBr Photography Center in Barcelona this winter and spring. The show, titled “William Eggleston’s Mystery of the Ordinary,” features over 100 photographs from Eggleston’s career. The photographs in the exhibition are a mix of color and black-and-white, capturing everyday scenes.
The exhibition is a must-see for anyone interested in William Eggleston’s work or the history of photography. It is rare to see such an extensive collection of Eggleston’s work in one place.
“People ask me what I am photographing. It’s a hard question to answer, and the best I have come up with is I just say life today.”William Eggleston
William Eggleston: The Father of Color Photography
William Eggleston is a singular figure in the history of photography. He is widely regarded as the father of color photography, and his work has profoundly impacted how we see the world.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1939, he began taking photographs as a teenager and studied photography at the University of Mississippi and Vanderbilt University. In the 1960s, Eggleston began experimenting with color photography, considered a less serious medium than black-and-white photography. He produced a body of work regarded as among the most influential in the history of color photography.
His early color photographs were often of mundane objects and scenes, such as old shoes, freezers with food, and the inside of a bathroom. He was interested in capturing everyday beauty, and he often used unconventional compositions to create striking images.
Eggleston’s work was first exhibited in the 1970s and quickly gained critical acclaim. His book, “William Eggleston’s Guide,” was published in 1976 and helped to bring his work to a broader audience. Eggleston has continued to work in color photography throughout his career and has been exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the National Medal of Arts in 2008.
Before Color 1963-1968
William Eggleston is a singular figure in the history of photography. He began his career in the mid-1960s, and his work quickly established him as a master of color photography. But Eggleston’s early career was also marked by a significant body of black-and-white work and was eventually printed by Steidl in 2010 as “Before Color.”
Walker Evans and Henri Cartier-Bresson influenced Eggleston’s early works. He worked in black and white, but his use of color quickly established a different emphasis. He did not lend nobility to what he portrayed, nor was he interested in fixing moments in time. His images show a visual account of deterioration.
The black-and-white photographs are striking for their simplicity and directness. They are often taken from a close vantage point and focus on everyday objects and scenes. Eggleston’s eye for detail is extraordinary, and he captures the textures and colors of the world around him with great precision.
The exhibition at KBr Fundació MAPFRE Barcelona Photo Center is the first to bring together Eggleston’s black-and-white and color photographs in a comprehensive way. It allows us to see Eggleston’s work in a new light.
Color Photography as Art
In the early days of photography, the only way to create a work of art was to use black and white film. Color photography was considered vulgar, commercial, and not worthy of being considered art.
However, in the 1960s, a new movement of photographers began to explore the possibilities of color photography. These photographers, including Eggleston, were the New Color Photography movement.
In 1976, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City held a major exhibition of Eggleston’s work. This exhibition was the first in the museum’s history to feature exclusively color photography, and it helped to legitimize color photography as a serious art form.
The 75 photographs in the exhibition were made using the dye transfer technique. This technique allowed Eggleston to create vibrant and saturated colors. The show also included a book, William Eggleston’s Guide, which is considered the foundational text for studying the artist’s work.
A Sublime Use of Pure Color
The color photographs are, of course, what Eggleston is best known for. They are saturated with color, and they often depict scenes that are both mundane and surreal. Eggleston has a gift for finding beauty in the ordinary, and his color photographs are a testament to his unique vision.
The juxtaposition of Eggleston’s black-and-white and color photographs is fascinating. The two are clearly related, but they also have their own distinct qualities. The black-and-white photographs are more intimate and introspective, while the color photographs are more expansive and outward-looking.
The Los Alamos photographs were taken between 1965 and 1974 and document Eggleston’s travels across the United States. In 1973, he stopped in Los Alamos, where the atomic bomb was secretly developed while driving through New Mexico. He used the site’s name as an ironic view of the mundaneness of his subjects.
In The Outlands (1969-1974), Eggleston captures the beauty and grit of the Deep South, from the lush green fields of cotton to the faded storefronts of small towns. He sees the world in a lyrical and unsentimental way.
The photographs are not simply records of the Deep South but also meditations on the American experience. Eggleston captures the hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties of people in transition in these images. He sees the beauty, ugliness, joy, and sorrow, and he presents it all with a sense of honesty and compassion.
‘The Mystery of the Ordinary’ is a must-see for photography enthusiasts. It is a rare opportunity to see Eggleston’s work in its entirety, and it is a reminder of why he is one of the most influential photographers of our time.
KBr Fundació MAPFRE Barcelona Photo Center | Sep 28, 2023 – Apr 28, 2024 | Avenida Litoral, 30 in the La Vila Olímpica del Poblenou area of Barcelona, Spain | Tickets are €4, Free on Tuesdays (Except festivals)
Barcelona Art Gallery Map
Navigating the many galleries of Barcelona can be daunting, but there’s a map to help you. Barcelona is a city of art and culture, and the Barcelona Gallery Weekend is a four-day celebration of that.
Each September, the Barcelona Gallery Weekend is a time to wander the streets of Barcelona, stopping in and out of galleries and taking in the city’s unique cultural landscape. It’s a time to be surprised and delighted by new artworks and connect with the city’s creative community.
The galleries are in some of the most beautiful and historic neighborhoods. So, even if you aren’t in town in September, their map is a beautiful way to explore art whenever you visit. You can use their suggested walking routes to comprehensively experience the city’s art scene.
I’ve also created a Google Map of select galleries from the Weekend and my favorites. This map also includes the Eggleston exhibition, Frank Gehry’s sculpture Peix (Fish), Hotel Arts Barcelona, Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and the Picasso Museum to give you a layout of the land.
If you’d like instructions on installing the map on your phone or desktop, type your email address below, and I’ll send them to you.
Hotel Arts Barcelona: A Luxurious Art Haven
Hotel Arts Barcelona is a five-star beach resort in the heart of the Olympic Marina, just across the street from the Eggleston show.
The hotel offers stunning views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea and is home to over 500 works of art, including original Spanish pieces by Jaime Tresserra and Manolo Valdés. The pool and garden have a full view of Frank Gehry’s sculpture Peix (Fish.)
The hotel is a popular destination for business and leisure travelers and offers a variety of amenities to make your stay as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. These include a rooftop pool, a spa, a fitness center, and restaurants and bars.
Hotel Arts strongly emphasizes cuisine, and its fine dining restaurant Enoteca is one of two Barcelona restaurants holding two Michelin stars. Chef Paco Pérez, who has five Michelin stars to his credit, focuses on local products and fresh seafood. The wine cellar also houses more than 700 labels.
Hotel Arts Barcelona is also within walking distance of the Picasso Museum and two photography galleries, Galeria Valid Foto Bcn and Galeria Esther Montoriol.
Transportation in Barcelona
Arriving in Barcelona is like stepping into a dream. The sun-drenched streets, the colorful architecture, and the delicious food make for an unforgettable experience. But how do you get around this vibrant city?
Barcelona has a clean, efficient, and affordable metro system. The Ciutadella Vila Olímpica metro stop is next to KBr Fundació and Hotel Arts. A full-sized Barcelona metro map is available here.
However, getting from one art destination to another isn’t always convenient. If you want to avoid the hassle of public transportation, you can opt for a taxi.
If you’re having trouble hailing a cab (which is common), you can download the official Barcelona taxi app, AMB Taxi Barcelona. The app lets you track taxis in real time and estimate your fare.