William Eggleston: Portraits
21 July – 23 October 2016
The renowned photographer's largest London show in over a decade.
Until the late 60s, art photography tended to be black and white. Colour was associated with commercial work, with advertising. By departing from an exclusively monochrome palette and experimenting with the complex and expensive ‘dye transfer’ technique, William Eggleston changed all that, casting his view of the American South – from diner interiors and gas stations to portraits – in vivid hues.
The latter are the focus of the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition, Eggleston’s largest London show in more than a decade. It features family, friends and celebrities he met on the nightclub scene in his hometown of Memphis. A previously unseen image of Joe Strummer enjoying a beer in a sunny courtyard is accompanied by a shot of a young Dennis Hopper driving along an empty highway.
His earliest photographic experiments before the introduction of colour are on display for the first time. Inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson’s ground-breakingly candid images, Eggleston used police surveillance film, spy cameras and DIY techniques such as self-cut sprockets to produce secretive images of life in modern America.