News release: William Eggleston Portraits

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Exhibition organised by the National Portrait Gallery, London with support from the artist and the Eggleston Artistic Trust. 

Supported by the William Eggleston Portraits Exhibition Supporters Group

The first comprehensive museum exhibition devoted to the portraits of pioneering American photographer, William Eggleston, opens at the National Portrait Gallery tomorrow, Thursday 21 July. 

William Eggleston Portraits(21 July to 23 October) brings together over 100 works by the American photographer, renowned for his vivid, poetic and mysterious images of people in diners, petrol stations, phone booths and supermarkets. It is the first major exhibition of Eggleston’s photographs in London since 2002 and the most comprehensive of his portraits.

Widely credited with increasing recognition for colour photography, following his own experimental use of dye-transfer technique, Eggleston is celebrated by a retrospective of his full career, including a selection of never-before seen vintage black and white photographs from the 1960s taken in and around the artist’s home in Memphis, Tennessee.

William Eggleston Portraits features friends, musicians, actors and rarely seen images of Eggleston’s own relations.  It provides a unique window on the artist’s home life, allowing visitors to see how public and private portraiture came together in Eggleston’s work. It also reveals, for the first time, the identities of many sitters who have until now remained anonymous.

Highlights include a previously unseen image of The Clash frontman Joe Strummer and a never-before exhibited portrait of the actor and photographer Dennis Hopper. There is also a monumental, five foot wide print of the legendary photographs of the artist’s uncle, Adyn Schuyler Senior, with his assistant Jasper Staples in Cassidy Bayou, Mississippi and Devoe Money in Jackson, Mississippi from the landmark book Eggleston’s Guide (1976).

Since first picking up a camera in 1957, Eggleston’s images have captured the ordinary world around him and his work is said to find ‘beauty in the everyday’. His portrayal of the people he encountered in towns across the American South, and in Memphis in particular, is shown in the context of semi-public spaces.

Between 1960 and 1965, Eggleston worked exclusively in black and white and people were Eggleston’s primary subject, caught unawares while going about ordinary tasks.  In the 1970s, Eggleston increasingly frequented the Memphis night club scene, developing friendships and getting to know musicians and artists. His fascination with club culture resulted in the experimental video ‘Stranded in Canton’, a selection of which is on view at the exhibition. ‘Stranded in Canton’ chronicles visits to bars in Memphis, Mississippi and New Orleans.

Eggleston’s 1976 show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is considered a pivotal moment in the recognition of colour photography as a contemporary art form. His work has inspired many present day photographers, artists and filmmakers, including Martin Parr, Sofia Coppola, David Lynch and Juergen Teller.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: William Eggleston makes memorable photographic portraits of individuals – including friends and family, musicians and artists – that are utterly unique and highly influential. More than this, Eggleston has an uncanny ability to find something extraordinary in the seemingly everyday.  Combining well-known works with others previously unseen, this exhibition looks at one of photography’s most compelling practitioners from a new perspective.’

Curator Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs at the National Portrait Gallery says, ‘Few photographers alive today have had such a profound influence on the way photographs are made and seen as William Eggleston. His pictures are as fresh and exciting as they were when they first grabbed the public’s attention in the 1970s. There is nothing quite like the colour in an Eggleston photograph – radiant in their beauty, that get deep under the skin and linger in the imagination.’


Organised with support of the artist and the Eggleston Artistic Trust
21 July to 23 October 2016, National Portrait Gallery, London
Admission charges:
Including voluntary donation: Adult: £8/Concessions: £6.50
Standard price: Adult: £7 /Concessions: £5.50 

020 7321 6600
Or in person at the Gallery


William Eggleston Portraits is accompanied by a fully illustrated exhibition book with texts by exhibition curator Phillip Prodger. This hardback publication includes over 120 beautifully reproduced colour and black and white photographs with an appreciation from film director Sofia Coppola.  

RRP £29.95

Also available: Encased in a beautiful cloth clamshell box and cover, 250 special edition copies of the exhibition catalogue signed by the photographer are available at £295

William Eggleston Portraits

William Eggleston Portraits is published in German speaking territories by Scheidegger & Spiess.
Die deutsche Ausgabe William Eggleston. Porträts erscheint bei Scheidegger & Spiess.

William Eggleston Portraits is published in Spanish speaking territories by La Fábrica.
El libro William Eggleston Portraits se publica en español por La Fábrica

William Eggleston Portraits is published in the USA and Canada by Yale University Press.


National Gallery Victoria, Melbourne (March - June 2017)

Exhibition organised by the National Portrait Gallery, London with support from the artist and the Eggleston Artistic Trust.

For further Press information and image requests please contact: Ailsa Mellor, Press Manager, National Portrait Gallery, London Tel: 020 7321 6620 (not for publication) Email: [email protected]  Press images:

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place WC2H 0HE, opening hours Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday: 10am – 6pm (Gallery closure commences at 5.50pm) Late Opening: Thursday, Friday: 10am – 9pm  (Gallery closure commences at 8.50pm) Nearest Underground: Leicester Square/Charing Cross General information: 0207 306 0055 Recorded information: 020 7312 2463  Website/Tickets:

Notes to editors

William Eggleston (born 27 July 1939) is an American photographer and was born in Memphis, Tennessee, near his family’s cotton farm in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi. His father was an engineer and his mother was the daughter of a prominent local judge. He attended the public schools of Sumner, Mississippi and Webb School, Bell Buckle, Tennessee.  After high school, he matriculated at, and on occasion attended, Vanderbilt University, Delta State College and the University of Mississippi.

As a boy, Eggleston was introverted; he enjoyed playing the piano, drawing, and working with electronics.  From an early age, he was also drawn to visual media, and reportedly enjoyed buying postcards and cutting out pictures from magazines. His interest in photography began while he was at Vanderbilt and was pursued desultorily until about 1962, when he discovered the work of Cartier-Bresson.

In the 1960s, sometimes working with spy cameras and police surveillance film, Eggleston made poignant photographs using black and white film, which he printed in his own darkroom. In one instance, he even cut a film by hand to fit his camera, meticulously cutting sprocket holes to allow the film to unwind. The exhibition will include a number of these personal, vintage objects, many of which have never been seen before publically. Since the late sixties most of his work has been in colour.

Eggleston was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in photography in 1974 and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 1975. In 1974, he was Lecturer in Visual and Environmental Studies at Carpenter Center, Harvard College.

A portfolio of dye-transfer prints, 14 Pictures, was privately published in 1974. Eggleston is particularly famed for his use of the dye transfer technique, in which the image is split into three separate layers – cyan, magenta, and yellow – printed one on top of the other in perfect registration.

Eggleston's work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1976. Around the time of his MoMA exhibition, Eggleston was introduced to Viva, the Andy Warhol "superstar", with whom he began a long relationship.

Eggleston also worked with filmmakers, photographing the set of John Huston’s film Annie (1982) and documenting the making of David Byrne’s film True Stories (1986).