Szarkowski in Eggleston 2002

Over the course of the last module I became aware of the work of Eggleston and was seduced and intrigued by his motivations. At times, his work overstretched my creative intelligence sometimes enjoying his photographs but unable to pontificate as to why I was drawn to them. This is where studying at MA level has really opened up a broader understanding of the world we see around. Being able to access an understanding of the vernacular world, finding enjoyment from it as a starting point, to developing a critical understanding. 

In terms of training my personal gaze, Eggleston has been very important in furthering the way I see photographic opportunities. Upon reviewing William Eggleston’s Guide, I wasn’t able to jump in and immediately understand the work and be able to comment on it in with immediacy. Having had a quick review of the photographs contained within, I was able to familliarise my self with his work and have some of the photographs in the mind so that I could contemplate. I also engaged with a brief reading of the Szarkowski essay included within the book. 

Over the months I have built some knowledge of Szarkowski’s writings, and understand that he is a type of gatekeeper of the art photography world. I find his writings engaging and able to engage with, which is something I sometimes find difficult. Reading his essay within the book I had an idea of what to expect but I wanted to choose my time of reading in order to prepare myself appropriately. 

Before engaging and contemplating the work contained within this book, Szarkowski makes a number of useful comments regarding relevant themes helpful in in the aid of contemplation. As a starting point, Szarkowski in Eggleston (2002, p 6) states… 

‘If we see pictures clearly as photographs, we will perhaps also see or sense, something of their other, more private wilful, and anarchic meanings’.

In considering this point, I am led to think about the intuition of the photographer in both my own sense in addition to understanding the work of others. I photograph the world as I see it. As a result of study at MA level I have no doubt that I see the world with a different perspective. That perspective is my own, and is shifting and evolving with my education. It is interesting to look back at my past work, whilst studying the MA and before studying the MA. In doing this I see a plethora of photographs, some nieve, some horrendous choices and some creative accidents, the occasional photograph that I am proud of. On reflection of this, I feel that the important lesson here is to understand the unique way that an individual looks at the world and be able to, and have the confidence to recognise work that represents my creative choices at their most powerful and moving as opposed to chasing ideas as dangerous as the pictorial.

With regards to the work I am producing at present, I feel that I am breaking new ground in the selection of when to fire the shutter. However having not been as successful as I would have liked on the last module, the knock in confidence serves to both create indecision while providing a drive to improve. Ultimately, I am working towards the justification by education and reflection on as deeper level as I am able to access. Photography offers infinate opportunities to reflect one’s voice. The pursuit of informed choices which represent maturity as opposed to sophistication is my shifting intention towards the future. 

Reflecting a private gaze which reflects the effort I invest. The destination as Szarkowski  (2002, p7) puts it ’The photographer hopes, in brief. To discover a tension so exact that it is peace’.  in doing this Szarkowski further states ‘photographers of exceptional talent learned to use the entire plate with boldness’.  Szarkowskis comments in relation to one’s approach are relevant to my practice especially at this point in the face of dissapointment of my own recent progress. Serving as motivation to keep trying, keep progressing and keep failing 95% of the time in order to be able to seek as much development as possible and make the images that reflect the intelligence of my creative capabilities. In search of this I will endeavour to ensure that I am being bold, I am using my research and make the reflective cycle work, the end point being the photograph. 

In  relation to being bold, and considering what it is to be bold within my own work, I use the images of Eggleston as a beacon of ‘being bold’. This idea doesn’t belong to Eggleston alone. Rather a blueprint for the the work that I am attemting to create.

When reviewing the work of Alex Webb, I see the boldness, not just in the vibrance and use of colour or the busy compositions. Rather the confidence to accept all of the variables but make work as a result of them. The difficulties of working with composition and colour I will address later but those such as Eggleston and Webb at present are a metaphor for where I want to be in a philosophical sense. Not simply trying to copying but being bold with choices. Stepping outside of my own vernacular and limiting fear of failure. 

Sometimes in seminars I would present images in black and white and my tutor Michelle would challenge me to explain why I had made such choices. In response I would often offer little response which is no doubt due to my lack of knowledge in this area. Having researched the work of Webb and Eggleston I am building a knowledge that black and white photography often revolves around the power of the composition or form as opposed to the colour photography where form and colour Pallet are considered seperately. I have found this quite difficult in some respects of my work thus far. The most obvious problem for me is dealing with the sky. Understanding the difference between the colour blue, and the sky Szarkowski (2002, p9) is a relevant issue as many of my shoots have yielded results with blown out skies, this I feel to an extent is a result of the dreary Manchester weather in the winter months when the majority of my work was composed. However I have had limited success when attempting to make work which echoes that of Hans Van Der Meer, shooting at a higher aperture whilst using floodlights to illuminate what would be the darker areas of the photograph. Using this method and exposing the camera for the sky opened up the texture in the sky and allowing one to add the colour of the sky in addition to the texture, which resulted in encompassing a richer colour and more interesting texture with the result of filling the edges of the frame, layering the the image with further interest.

When considering the composition in the work of Eggleston Szarkowski (2002) comments ‘the design of most of his pictures seemed radiate from a central circular core’. This may sound like a fairly simple observation with most amateur photographers aware of such basic rules however what is interesting to me about this observation is Szarkowski’s use of terminology when he state ‘radiate’. Here the reference refers to the idea of a progressive nature of waves of simulation, waves of semiotic unions leading to a more complexed reading. Having use of the whole frame in order to add veracity. Raising questions, Selecting vantage points to encompass further layers for contemplation. Whether the use of colour, composition or both in union to illustrate the vernacular. Eggleston furthered this approach by alluding to the notion that he bases his compositions on the Confederate flag. An idea that Szarkowski appears to be unsure however the idea is certainly worth considering and being aware of in future shoots and having in mind. The idea that Eggleston’s pictures ‘aren’t concerned with large question as opposed to describing life’ I fees is slightly puzzling as I feel that Eggleston’s work deals with complex issues relating to the vernacular. I understand that Eggleston’s intentions we’re not noble in the sense that he wasn’t dealing with relevant issues such as inequality or poverty. He deals with the everyday, his work is about the private sphere, an idea that reveals as much about his subjects lives and environments as do the intentional imperfections in his work. Alluding to his dislike of the pictorial and the conventional rules.

Eggleston, W. (2002) William Eggleston’s Guide. New York, The Museum of Modern Art.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s