The photographer William Eggleston has famously made a career out of democratizing photography. He calls it photographing the ordinary. We know him for his color photographs of Memphis, TN - fields, roads, tricycles, parking lots, homes, churches, funerals, people, trash bins, store fronts, cars, gas stations, light poles, and dolls, the list goes on and on. But if you have ever lived in the south, you will recognize this world. It’s a place and a time, similar to others in America, but still somehow different. That’s the mark of a good photographer, something that makes you recognize a style, something that makes you want to say “That looks like an Eggleston.”
But today, in the digital age, the democratization of photography has balkanized the photograph. Is there any fragment of reality too small to photograph? Is any fragment better than any other? Is my photographic moment more important than yours? Today we flickr, instagram, facebook, and twitter our photos, as if to say, “Hey, look at this, this is a moment of my life.” Never mind how many billions of photographs will be taken this year. Never mind how transient and small the moment may be. And with billions of photographs, can anyone develop a style?
And yet…and yet… people want to take photographs more than ever. Technology drives the desire, and makes it easy to snap the photo. Who doesn’t take photographs? For the amateur, the biggest problem is what to do with them. In the past, we pasted them into albums, and passed the albums around. Today, we put them on ipads and pass the ipads around. But still, there are so many of them. And how do you pass the ipad around to everyone? And what do you do with the rest? And, just as important, do people really want to look at your photos?
As an amateur, you accumulate lots of different photos – people, scenery, family events. Notice that I didn’t say portraits, landscapes, and weddings. You don’t accidently accumulate portraits, landscapes, and wedding albums. You have to shoot those intentionally. Amatuers mostly take aspirational snapshots. Their defining quality is documentation. I want this photo of the birthday party because it’s part of our family history. In years to come, it might give us a moment of pleasure to look back and remember this day. So you snap the picture.
But sometimes you think the picture is a little better than a snapshot. You know you’re never going to be a professional, but something inside says, “I really like this picture, and I want to make an even better one.” Is there room in life for the middling amateur? Are there any more Egglestons out there wandering the landscape, just shooting what interests them?
Hence, a blog. It's a place in no man’s land, somewhere between snapshots and something worth a second look. So here goes. I shoot what interests me. Simple as that. A lot of it goes in the trash. You’ll never see it. But some of it I keep and some of it will end up here. The current stuff is better than the old stuff, but there’s a lot of old stuff. So some old and some new, until the old is gone and all is new.
Photos were taken along the Blue Ridge Parkway.