Phillip Prodger, curator of William Eggleston’s Retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, London, answers some questions for Aesthetica Magazine:
How do you think that Eggleston is able to transform the everyday into something extraordinary?
I’m not trying to split hairs because that is a wonderful thought and on some level it’s true. But I don’t think Eggleston would agree that he is transforming anything, it’s all there, all the time, everything else is a matter of perception. What is true is that he has never sought out extraordinary people to make extraordinary portraits. And the converse is also true—when he’s had occasion to photograph celebrities, he’s approached them just like anybody else.
How do you think audiences respond to seemingly anonymous portraits and are able to attach emotion to them?
In our show we are able to reveal the identities of the sitters for the first time, so I have thought a lot about this question. Are we somehow spoiling things by stripping away the anonymity of some of the sitters? And I think the answer is no. It really doesn’t matter if you know who they are, or if you don’t. It’s interesting, but the picture stands on its own. None of us, no one, can live another person’s life. So the idea that a photograph can convey what it felt like to be in that person’s presence is a convenient fiction that we repeat so much we don’t think about it anymore. For me what’s so interesting about Eggleston is he challenges all those fictions and asks us to look at everything differently. Pictures, photographs, memory, record, self, otherness. It’s all up for grabs.
Full interview here.