new-york

William Eggleston

Cheim & Read

“Avoid prettiness—the word looks much like pettiness, and there is but little difference between them.” With these words, Peter Henry Emerson raged against fluffy concoctions of sublimity and romance in his 1889 treatise Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art, which made the case that some photography should be accorded artistic (rather than scientific or commercial) status. While there’s now little question as to the medium’s creative viability, one need only reflect on the career of William Eggleston, whose landmark exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1976 unmistakably marked the arrival of color photography into “art” terrain, to see this as a relatively recent development. One can only assume that the artist generally regarded as the pioneer of modern color photography would have gained the approval of Emerson twice over, since his images are not only “naturalistic,”

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