William Eggleston was born in 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee and although he was interested in visual media from a young age, his interest in photography developed when a university friend gave him a Leica camera. Eggleston’s early aesthetic influences were the photographs of Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson’s book The Decisive Moment.
Eggleston is often credited as a pioneer in colour photography, which was introduced to him by a professor at the Memphis College of Art. He was a professor himself, at Harvard University, which is where he discovered the process of dye-transfer printing, which led to his iconic colour-saturated photograph The Red Ceiling (1973). His subsequent portfolio 14 Pictures (1974) was featured in a 1976 MOMA exhibition and this was considered a critical event in the acceptance of colour photography. The book William Eggleston’s Guide accompanied the exhibition; Eggleston produced twelve other books and portfolios following his Guide. In the 1970s he met Andy Warhol’s circle and also experimented in video. In 2008, in conjunction with Haus der Kunst in Munich, the Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective exhibition: “William Eggleston: Democratic Camera, Photographs and Video, 1961-2008.