Mary Macpherson

The photographs of Mary Macpherson – with a dash of poetry

Posts Tagged ‘William Eggleston

Being little geekish about Eggleston

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This will sound like a geek’s ‘Guide’ to Eggleston, but one of the things that most interested us about the William Eggleston Portraits show at the NGV in Melbourne was the printing. Of course, of course, the images were important (she says hastily) – the glorious Devoe Money on the flowered seat and many other famous, and less well known portraits – but it was the printing and its relationship to images in various books, and contemporary versus historic processes that we are still discussing.

In New Zealand, significant international work is usually encountered in books. Although trips overseas sometimes bring first-hand encounters (I still remember being shown some famous Eggleston images at the Frankel Gallery in the ’90s) but the reproduction in the book remains the prime source. As famous books are re-issued, new and better reproductions replace the images printed in the 70s and 80s.

In the Portraits show where they’d gone to lengths to source vintage prints, some surprises were in store. The much talked about dye transfer prints for example – well, quite often they weren’t that pleasant as exhibition prints. If the image had been taken in the shade or dim lighting, the pervading sense was of a print that was too dark. The reproductions of these images in books are often better to dwell on. There were exceptions, of course, such as the boy at the grocery store beautifully lit by the afternoon sun, but this was an exception rather than the rule.

Another ‘verdict’ we came to was that images printed as contemporary archival pigment prints were much superior and quite often gorgeous, for example the riveting, uneasy ‘Artist’s uncle Adyn Schuyler Senior with assistant Jasper Staples’, which sang as an ultra large contemporary print.

And there were other printing surprises too. The recent book of Eggleston’s Portraits which accompanies the exhibition, starts with early black and white work, sized to fill the page. In the book I found myself appreciating these in a rather distant way, impatient to get to the colour work. In the exhibition, the small vintage black and white prints were beautiful and all at once, the spirit of the images snapped into place.  The one C-type print in the show was of a romantic image of the artist’s children with flowers. As a small negative print it was full of delicacy and wonder. Enlarged in the book, the singing quality is gone.

All this fretting over relative merits of reproduction and sizes, has I think at the bottom a sense of unease about how relative significant photographic images are – today, they can be online, in a show, a book, a magazine, on your computer, in your phone or camera. If the images are those that are hardwired into the brain, it’s like your childhood memories unearthed and thrown up into the air to come down in thousands of different forms. But I also take pleasure in one of my favourite thoughts about the past from American poet Mark Doty explaining our understanding of our personal histories as: climbing the internal staircase of a lighthouse, spiralling around an experience, one’s perspective always changing and developing.

Phillip Prodger talking about the William Eggleston show

Head of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery, London, Phillip Prodger giving a curator’s tour of the show at the NGV.

Exhibition: ‘William Eggleston Portraits’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London


Written by Mary Macpherson

08/04/2017 at 5:16 pm

A few animals

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A few photographic things from today and yesterday.

Been looking at William Eggleston’s portraits book – realised how much of a role fabric plays in some of his great images. And how strange bodies can look encased in fabric.

And talking of fabric I finished stitching my Medical Daydreams Photobooks – by the end I was down to one book per two and a half songs.

Then there are these few images from the phone that seemed to be talking to each other

Wellington (Mary Macpherson)

Wellington (images copyright Mary Macpherson)

image image


Written by Mary Macpherson

28/08/2016 at 5:31 pm

Gruyaert’s European splash of colour

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As a follower of the colour photography that stems from William Eggleston and Stephen Shore et al, it was a pleasure to view the exhibition of Belgium Magnum photographer Harry Gruyaert at the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie in Paris today.

Image Harry Gruyaert

An image from the Harry Gruyaert exhibition currently on in Paris.

Gruyaert is a photographer whose impetus comes from travelling and the emotional use of colour. He cites Eggleston’s 1976 MoMA colour exhibition as one of his influences along with 1970s Italian movies and the paintings of Matisse. This splashy approach to colour is mixed with locations ranging from India, Morocco, the US, France and Belgium, among others.

The result is high impact colour pictures – with a bent towards a red palette  – of street scenes, beaches, airports, trains – the crowded stuff of everyday. The feeling of the images is of a very competant assignment photographer working with a personal eye. Gruyaert himself has commented in interviews that the pictures of Belgium were hard to make because of his strict Catholic upbringing and it was only when he didn’t live there and working in colour that he could express the country where he grew up.

Unlike the U.S. and German photographers of the same school Gruyaert’s large scale prints are filled with grain and blocked shadows. A question of taste of course, but it was a minus for me. But a bonus to see a European interpretation of the ‘new colour’ movement.


Written by Mary Macpherson

17/04/2015 at 4:06 am

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