Sunday, November 7, 2010
freezer (homage to William Eggleston)
One of the best things about my trip to Los Angeles was getting to see the big William Eggleston retrospective at LACMA (ironically, I was in LA when it was on at the Whitney in 2008). It was a show in which I found a number of his photographs peculiarly familiar even if I hadn't consciously seen them before: he's a photographer by whom I've been very influenced, even though I don't know if I would have recognized this fact loudly and consciously without seeing the exhibition. But his stress on the ordinary - the "democratic camera" of the exhibition's title - and his love of slightly over-saturated color (pre-digital, he produced this through the dye transfer process, which allowed him to isolated and concentrate colors in his images) - both feed into my own work all the time.
I hadn't known his freezer interior, with its chilly blues and rather unhealthy yellows, but couldn't wait to get home and imitate it. I was rather surprised to open the freezer door and find how healthy it looked, by comparison - the only prepared foods in here are pre-packed bags of Whole Foods spinach, which hardly count, and some Smart Water, which is probably me turning a marketing rip-off into something that I can pop into an insulated bag when next travelling long distance in the car. There's a slight disappointment in this, in that there's limited documentary value. One of the things that I found myself reflecting on at the exhibition was the passage of time that ensures that the strictly contemporary - the food packets and the advertisements, the cars and the hairstyles - date and become documentary history, so that the images take on a patina of nostalgia that they rarely had initially. I say "rarely" cautiously, though, because Eggleston was, and is, a self-conscious recorder of the south, and of small town diners and gas stations - exactly the kind of locations that have individual character, and the passing of which is easy to lament even before they are actually closed and derelict.