I recently re-read “The Democratic Forest” by William Eggleston, a photo book that is highly regarded for it’s disconnected images that somehow still tell a story. Eggleston is highly renowned for his colour photography work, in a time when the “masters” were still shooting black and white.
“Eggleston has said, I am at war with the obvious. His photographs transform the ordinary into distinctive, poetic images that eschew fixed meaning.”
In watching Alec Soth’s YouTube video “Rambling through Eggleston’s Democratic Forest” I gained an even better understanding as to what these photos meant at the time, how this book has changed over the years based on who was editing and curating the images, and that there are actually close to 10,000 images from this series.
It’s an interesting concept, to shoot “democratically” – to essentially photograph with the thought of inclusivity instead of always being selective in what you capture. Photographers are taught to train their eye so that they only capture moments that have a perceived value (whether that be for a client, or a personal project, etc.), excluding images that are unworthy of capture. Eggleston turned that theory on it’s head, seemingly making photos of the mundane, the way we live instead of how we “want to look.” He would often break down a scene into it’s elements of colour, shape, etc. focusing on bringing those to life in his frame.
This COVID-19 Pandemic has had me evaluating what I want out of my photography, basically what purpose does it serve in my life? I’ve always been a reactionary shooter, one that tries to be inspired by the moment to make the “best” photo I can make. That comes from the many years of photographing live events (concerts, corporate galas, weddings etc.) where you can do some pre-planning but most of what you are documenting is what is unfolding in front of you during the day.
These photos below are definitely not on the same level with William Eggleston, but it feels like the philosophy of the “Democratic Forest” applies here, especially when the pandemic has us self isolating. Looking for vignettes of light and shadow around the house, and out the windows has forced me into making images I wouldn’t normally make – to include images I wouldn’t normally include. Black and white images worked best in this case, but I think if I continue to explore this genre of photography, colour photography is going to have to play a large part as well.
But in all honesty, I think it’s a good thing to push myself as a photographer. Who knows where I will be at the end of all this 😉