Book Review

by alexmasonphotography

The book I have chosen to review is called Democratic Camera and it contains the outstanding photographic work of William Eggleston from 1961-2008.

The book is a hard back book, a bit wider than A4 in size and is 303 pages thick.

As I looked through this book skimming it and paying special attention to certain photos, I became aware that the photos that William Eggleston has taken appear to be of the mundane activities of every day life, for example a photo of a plate of food with the table all laid out with silver cutlery and several other dishes but nobody actually sitting at the table, but the persons presence is still lingering. I find it interesting how this photo of the plate of food stood out to me at first because when I looked at the text below the photo I noticed that, not only did this photo say ‘Plate 17’ but all the photos before and after are titled ‘Plate 1,Plate 2, Plate 3’ and so on all the way up until ‘Plate 134’. I just happened to be looking at the only photo that actually was a plate.

When applying this book to the theme of ‘A Persons Presence’ it is extremely suitable and applicable so I have picked out some images that stood out for me to work with the theme.

This photo stand out due to its perspective. A  child’s toy is dominating the frame and is made to look as if it is towering over the buildings that would normally look huge for a child. It transforms reality into a sort of fake fairy tale world. My mind wonders where the child is? Why the toy has been left there? Did William as the child if he could take the photo? Is it photographed with this perspective because the child was so proud of the bike and William wanted to emphasise this within the image? It is a thought provoking image.

This image is somewhat surreal in the sense that, there is nowhere obvious to show us where this is hanging from or how it is being hung. The white piece of clothing strongly contrasts the dark shadows behind which give the image an almost haunting feel to it. There is a lot of mystery to this photo also. There is an obvious sense of human presence in this image, the fact that he has decided to not photograph below the are on the legs that he has frustrates me because I just want to know what is under there.

Not only am I getting an idea of human presence by just looking at the gravestone as an object itself but it reminds me of the funeral that would have taken place, who was there etc. The name ‘SMITH’ doesn’t tell you too much in itself. I could imagine the fencing encompassing the area being put up by the groundsmen and the flowers in the background being placed there by loving relatives and friends.

Has the person that just got off the phone had to run out to an emergency or found out some bad or exciting news? Or has William simply photographed that to remind him about the phone call he just had as a way of expressing himself?

The way that William has decided to frame this with the ax perfectly central to the frame, draws our eyes in immediately to that object. He has made the ax the centre of attention and it looks sinister. When looking at the red on the ax, the signifier of blood and murder it is clearly at the wrong end for the ‘murderer to have used… unless they used it backwards… The other orange colours that match up with the red all create a sinister feel for me.

All Images © William Eggleston