The ascent of colour photography into the rarefied stratum of fine art was a rocky affair. When the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a solo show of colour prints of Memphis-born photographer William Eggleston in 1976 it was considered groundbreaking - a nod by one of the art word's pre-eminent institutions to the legitimacy of colour, a first for the museum, and a heralding of a new era for the medium. It also cemented Eggleston's place as one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century.
Eggleston's prolific body of work over nearly fifty years is the subject of a new major retrospective at the Whitney Museum in Manhattan. His pictures are characterised as much by the fluid richness of their colour as by the simple, almost shocking mundaneness of their subject matter, snapshots (in both senses) of the deep, dreary American South.
His influence on modern photography and film has been vast, but widespread recognition for his work wasn't immediate. His MOMA exhibition was widely derided, with the New York Times labelling it 'the most hated show of the year.' One gets the strong sense, though, that the famously irreverent Eggleston is a man less interested in acclaim than with doing what he enjoys, as an end in itself. The subsequent reversal of critical opinion, however grand, seems almost beside the point.