The Coincidence Of Chaos
Did you ever get the feeling the Universe is trying to tell you something? This past weekend’s NY Times had a special T Magazine, “The Greats”, which profiled 8 contemporary artists. The magazine had 8 cover variants, one for each of the artists. Who do I get as a cover but none other than the photographer I have been thinking about and contemplating lately, William Eggleston. He’s a photographer, I am a photographer, coincidence? The message from the Universe goes a little deeper. I have always thought of Eggleston as a pompous, elitist, rich, white southerner who had everything handed to him and who had the leisure to pursue his desires (instead of having to get a weekly paycheck). Saying that, he was a genius. I never did like his music but I always thought there was something special about how he caught moments in time and space.
Eggleston always said that he was at “war with the obvious”. I never quit understood this, or to put it another way, it did not help me understand his work. There is very little violence in his images, although some of it gets a little dirty and ugly. There is very little that is ordinary in his images. The world is cropped and colors pop in his images in beautiful and extraordinary ways. People inhabit strange worlds with reckless abandon and sometimes in quiet leisure. Now remember this is from the viewpoint of a younger, hispanic man, who grew up in an urban slum and became a professional photographer raising a family in the suburbs if New Jersey.
I had a nagging feeling that the work I was seeing in the pages of T magazine and in the Eggleston monographs I had in my library had something to do with the images I was currently working on for my, The Grammar Of Existence, series. The whole idea behind that series is that the world (life, existence) can be thought of as a wonderfully written novel. A photograph becomes a sentence, beautifully written and evocative of the life and the world around me. It is a private, idiosyncratic world but none the less can relate to everybody’s existence.
Wait, isn’t that what Eggleston is doing? His obvious isn’t my obvious, but his pictures are evocations of his life and his world which (from his famous statement) he believes is obvious to everyone. It is not, but beautiful none the less.
The Universe has given me a message! No, not really. If there are 8 covers and The NY Times has about 2 million readers then they would have printed 300,000 of the Eggleston covers. That is about a 15 percent chance of getting the cover. Pretty good odds. The fact that I had a small epiphany regarding my photography and that of William Eggleston, just the result of lots of thinking and obsessing over photography.
Still I am grateful for any and all revelations – wherever they may emanate from.