William Eggleston: Photographer
Microcinema // Unrated // $19.99 // March 31, 2009
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted April 28, 2009
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Because of its very nature, the camera quickly became an easily used and learned device so it took a while for photography really began to take off and be regarded in the same light as painting and sculpture in the art world. Because of the mass production associated with photographic printing, it still doesn't garner the same extravagant price tags, thus less respect.

William Eggleston is regarded as one of the artists who helped advance the reputation of color photography within the art world. Memphis raised and currently residing, Eggleston's mid 70's book "William Eggleston's Guide" and his Museum of Modern Art showing simply titled "Color Photos" sparked a wave of bipolar critical reactions, some calling it revelatory others stating it was banal.

Taking his inspiration from Henri Cartier Bresson's landmark "The Decisive Moment," Eggleston's subjects are the everyday and the seemingly innocuous. A ceiling with an exposed light bulb. A trashy hotel room. Broken down shops. A ragged stretch of roadway. Unkempt yards. A rust-covered this. A weathered that. He famously said, "I am at war with the obvious." Elaborating (a bit) in this doc, he says describes his work to others as, "Life today. I don't know whether they believe or not or what that means."

Eggleston isn't one to deconstruct his work, his comments are simple and guarded. He doesn't take more than one photo of a certain object because he hates trying to pick from multiple shots. He only uses available light. He bluntly states the obvious about his choice of using the dye transfer process originally used for advertising and fashion prints- he liked it. Rather than be angry or hurt, he felt sorry for his critics because they didn't understand his work and it was their job to be more perceptive. He has dreams about photographs. Always in color.

I would normally say that Rainer Holzemer's short is way too lean, but I have seen Michael Almereyda's long form doc William Eggleston: In the Real World. That film, while it has more of the interesting rambling observational scenes and personal background detail than Photographer, is also a bit of a bore and, unable to penetrate its distant subject, began to manufacture drama and define the man through the boozy, seedier corners of his life. As such, Holzemer's Photographer keeps things at the right distance and would serve as a nice introductory glance at Eggleston for photo newbies.

The DVD: Microcinema.

Picture:The doc is presented in anamorphic widescreen. Pleasant enough pic, though, common enough for docs, the tech source details are on the excusable lower end.

Sound: Two audio options include English or German. Again, simple stuff, no complaints. Rote mix, plaintive scoring, and basic dialogue recording.

Extras: Squat. Well, you can choose between English and German version, but there is only mere seconds difference and, based on a quick scan, I think its due to some slightly longer end title cards on the German version.

Conclusion: At a mere twenty-seven minutes, William Eggleston: Photographer is about what you would expect, a cliff notes, wiki entry level doc. A skimming portrait giving those who don't know about the man just enough facts to feel they've learned something but a probing portrait this is not. Best served up as a rental or a purchase if you are a photography teacher with a library of artist profiles in your curriculum.



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