I feel as if many photographers working today owe a lot to Bill Eggleston. Or perhaps not. Either way, his influence among the art world has been sort of delayed about 40 years. Like many art students, I learned about him in an introductory photography course during my freshmen year in college. I was ignorant to any photographer shooting seriously in this “snapshot aesthetic” — the only photographers I knew about were Man Ray and Ansel Adams. And I no idea one could make art about one’s home — his hometown in Memphis, Tennessee. The South. Ah, I thought, something I identify with readily that many of my classmates didn’t. I understood it. His pictures felt like home, my home. I ended up going home over Thanksgiving break and making pictures around the countryside with which I was duly familiar. The landscape I spent most of my grade school years attempting to escape. Now, here I was, stopping my car on the side of the road with my camera out, taking in appraising stares from strangers bypassing in their cars. I’ve done this every time I’ve gone home.
I owe a bit to ol’ Bill Eggleston. What he did for art and color photography and more importantly, what he made me realize about southern imagery. Even though he claims his pictures aren’t necessarily southern (and I don’t think they are either), but that art could be made about whatever is around you.
Naturally, I wasn’t at all surprised that the above image is expected to gross a quarter of a million dollars at Christie’s this March. But I am a little surprised it took this long. (And, by the way, doesn’t it look a bit like the St. Andrew’s Cross?)