William Eggleston Portraits -Study Visit National Portrait Gallery 1st October 2016

On Saturday 1st October I attended the ‘William Eggleston Portraits‘ Study Visit at the National Portrait Gallery in London. This was my first OCA study visit and it happened to be run by my tutor Jayne Taylor. There were approximately 14 of us. It was a real pleasure to meet follow students. One of the downsides of distance learning is the lack of physical contact with ones peers, a meeting like this is most refreshing. A really nice bunch of people studying a variety of courses all in the same boat. Link to the exhibition website is below:

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/eggleston/exhibition.php

The exhibition is not large, 100 images. These images vary in size from passport sized to several feet across. The variety of content range from early black & white, innovative early use of colour, very large prints and later works of high quality. The arrangement of the display and lighting was somewhat strange and I found myself having to continually move in and out to obtain the best perspective and to be able to read the information cards.

The colour prints were rich and saturated. The subjects generally appeared to me melancholy or even uncomfortable, and rarely engaged the camera directly. I was particularly struck by some rather stunning large low-key portraits that Eggleston created in the 70’s. Also his use of perspective was interesting. From above to make the subject diminutive and vulnerable as in the B&W image of the man in the phone booth or the later colour image of his grandmother framed in the room doorway. From low down to give the subject greater stature as in the 70’s colour images of the fashionable black man standing between the cars and the one of Shelley Schuyler.

Once the group had viewed the Eggleston exhibition we went to the cafe in the crypt across the road from the NPG to have some refreshments and discuss the exhibition as a group. This was a lively and friendly discussion and everyone was able to share their thoughts on the exhibition. Everyone’s views and perspectives were refreshing and valid. Overall my impression of ‘William Eggleston Portraits‘ was a positive one and made all the better for sharing with the group.

We also went to see another display in the NPG ‘Black Chronicles: Photographic Portraits 1862 – 1948‘. Link to the exhibition website is below:

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/blackchronicles/display.php

This was a small but poignant exhibition. I was impressed by the sharpness and quality of the large portraits in the initial hall. They seemed so fresh, that they could have taken yesterday with modern subjects dressing up. I am attending the Brighton Biannual later in the month, and look forward to comparing it to the ‘Dandy Lion‘ exhibition there.

A very enjoyable study visit and look forward to attending more in the future.