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Monthly Masters DiscussionMonthly Masters' Discussion: Dec 2017 - Two Kinds of Christmas Images: Currier & Ives vs William Eggleston

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Re: Monthly Masters' Discussion: Two Kinds of Christmas Images: Currier & Ives vs William Eggleston - Share Your Thought

Post by Duck » Sun Dec 03, 2017 3:15 am

Yes, Tennessee, 1980 on first glance is dismissable and, frankly, a fairly mundane, ugly snapshot anyone else would have passed by without giving it a second thought. Yet there is a hidden truth in that single ugly snapshot that, upon scholarly examination, holds a lot of symbolism, and that is why it appeals to so many pundits. When someone is versed in symbolism it becomes easy to see meaning where there may not have been any. But Eggleston is no dummy and knows how to play the game. Create it without explanation and let others fill in the gaps. So what's so special about Tennessee, 1980? I'll put forth one narrative, but before you read further, stop and examine the image and see if you can come up with your own narrative.

First, let me lay out all the elements visible in this image; Some kind of large pole or post painted a sea green. Strands of rew clad wire with an array of similarly colored red and green lights, some of the missing. Power lines. Clear blue skies. Cars in a parking lot in the lower right corner. Possibly a strip mall visible in the lower left and right corners. Now for some rather obvious symbolism. A pole is a support. It holds things up. String lights alone are ubiquitous but when coupled with the red and green motif... that conjures images of Christmas lights hung on a tree. In this case the pole can be looked as a surrogate Christmas tree because of its color and the presence of lights. Right away we are presented with a rather bleak, incongruous vision of Christmas. This is no Currier & Ives or Thomas Kinkade pastoral scene. This is a harsher reality. Parking lots, shopping malls speak of our consumeristic approach to the holidays. Fighting crowds, standing in long lines for those special gifts the kids just gotta have.

So, the subtext of this image can be seen as the collapse (fallen wires, broken lights) of traditional Christmas values as the reality of our consumer driven world takes over. But... someone did make an attempt at trying to capture some semblance of what Christmas should be by trying to illuminate their little corner of the world. In true Eggleston style, he found a nice composition that contained a bold use of split complementary colors that fit a theme.

Did he see the irony of this image? Who knows. Only he can answer, but I bet he gives a knowing chuckle whenever he hears anyone talking knowingly about one of his images.
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Post by Psjunkie » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:09 am

It's all way over my head Chuck but you for sure have said a mouthful.......

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Post by Charles Haacker » Sun Dec 03, 2017 1:52 pm

Psjunkie wrote:It's all way over my head Chuck but you for sure have said a mouthful.......
:D :lol: :rofl:
Duck wrote:[...] So, the subtext of this image can be seen as the collapse (fallen wires, broken lights) of traditional Christmas values as the reality of our consumer driven world takes over. But... someone did make an attempt at trying to capture some semblance of what Christmas should be by trying to illuminate their little corner of the world. In true Eggleston style, he found a nice composition that contained a bold use of split complementary colors that fit a theme.

Did he see the irony of this image? Who knows. Only he can answer, but I bet he gives a knowing chuckle whenever he hears anyone talking knowingly about one of his images.

I bet he does, too. That piece in the Independent (Minnie linked it in the OP) includes a tellingly opaque, very tongue-in-cheek interview with Eggleston. Reading it twice I more and more came to feel that he was putting us on and inwardly hilarious at his own joke. I am a huge fan of technical excellence, and from what little I can see online, technically, Eggleston is an absolute master craftsman. But...! As I wander my virtual gallery I mostly pass on by the Egglestons. (?) As Frank says, it's all way over my head. :|
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Post by minniev » Sun Dec 03, 2017 4:51 pm

Duck wrote:Yes, Tennessee, 1980 on first glance is dismissable and, frankly, a fairly mundane, ugly snapshot anyone else would have passed by without giving it a second thought. Yet there is a hidden truth in that single ugly snapshot that, upon scholarly examination, holds a lot of symbolism, and that is why it appeals to so many pundits. When someone is versed in symbolism it becomes easy to see meaning where there may not have been any. But Eggleston is no dummy and knows how to play the game. Create it without explanation and let others fill in the gaps. So what's so special about Tennessee, 1980? I'll put forth one narrative, but before you read further, stop and examine the image and see if you can come up with your own narrative.

First, let me lay out all the elements visible in this image; Some kind of large pole or post painted a sea green. Strands of rew clad wire with an array of similarly colored red and green lights, some of the missing. Power lines. Clear blue skies. Cars in a parking lot in the lower right corner. Possibly a strip mall visible in the lower left and right corners. Now for some rather obvious symbolism. A pole is a support. It holds things up. String lights alone are ubiquitous but when coupled with the red and green motif... that conjures images of Christmas lights hung on a tree. In this case the pole can be looked as a surrogate Christmas tree because of its color and the presence of lights. Right away we are presented with a rather bleak, incongruous vision of Christmas. This is no Currier & Ives or Thomas Kinkade pastoral scene. This is a harsher reality. Parking lots, shopping malls speak of our consumeristic approach to the holidays. Fighting crowds, standing in long lines for those special gifts the kids just gotta have.

So, the subtext of this image can be seen as the collapse (fallen wires, broken lights) of traditional Christmas values as the reality of our consumer driven world takes over. But... someone did make an attempt at trying to capture some semblance of what Christmas should be by trying to [illuminate[/i] their little corner of the world. In true Eggleston style, he found a nice composition that contained a bold use of split complementary colors that fit a theme.

Did he see the irony of this image? Who knows. Only he can answer, but I bet he gives a knowing chuckle whenever he hears anyone talking knowingly about one of his images.


Thanks for an in depth response! I agree with your assessment of the Eggleston image, I am convinced he captured the irony on purpose, since irony is probably the quality I see most in his work , after color (which is his primary driving force). I am drawn to Eggleston in part because he is from the same place I was born (Mississippi delta), and photographs the same things I've seen all my life, often in ways I'd never have done. I don't know him personally, but his nieces were my playmates as a child so I vaguely knew of him before I ever owned a camera. One critic from New Orleans described his work as "something like a short story Eudora Welty started but never finished"). That is the best description I've found of his perplexing work. It isn't particularly inspiring to me, but it captures my attention.
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Post by Duck » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:03 pm

Like you, Chuck, I would give Eggleston a cursory look and move on. Not so much because I don't understand it but more because his work doesn't appeal to my aesthetic tastes. He is indeed, as you said, a master craftsman and I will definitely disagree with anyone who dismissed his work as just a bunch of 'snapshots', but he is one of those artists you can not judge an image against itself. It must be taken in context within the whole of a series for that one image to be understood.
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Post by Steven G Webb » Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:32 pm

I prefer the Currier & Ives for all the reasons given by others with the same preference. No need in being repetitious.
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Post by minniev » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:28 pm

Steven G Webb wrote:I prefer the Currier & Ives for all the reasons given by others with the same preference. No need in being repetitious.

Thank you for pitching in, and we don't mind repetitious, 'cause you've probably got your own unique view!
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Post by Steven G Webb » Tue Dec 05, 2017 2:08 am

minniev wrote:
Steven G Webb wrote:I prefer the Currier & Ives for all the reasons given by others with the same preference. No need in being repetitious.

Thank you for pitching in, and we don't mind repetitious, 'cause you've probably got your own unique view!


The stark reality, sharply defined edges and contrast in Eggleston's photo run counter to the illusion most have of the holiday season. Yule tide is emotion more than equation and feeling more than fact. We like our movies chock full of special effects and CGI and we really don't want to see the wires, the chroma screens and animations though we can rationalize they are there.
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Post by minniev » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:33 pm

Steven G Webb wrote:
minniev wrote:
Steven G Webb wrote:I prefer the Currier & Ives for all the reasons given by others with the same preference. No need in being repetitious.

Thank you for pitching in, and we don't mind repetitious, 'cause you've probably got your own unique view!


The stark reality, sharply defined edges and contrast in Eggleston's photo run counter to the illusion most have of the holiday season. Yule tide is emotion more than equation and feeling more than fact. We like our movies chock full of special effects and CGI and we really don't want to see the wires, the chroma screens and animations though we can rationalize they are there.


Thank you! You're the first to bring up our infatuation with being coaxed into believing an illusion.Indeed, Currier and Ives perpetuates that sweet delusion, while Eggleston slaps us in the face with it.
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Post by St3v3M » Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:39 pm

Psjunkie wrote:... you know I don't know squat about art ...

From discussions like these I don't know that many of us do, but it makes me wonder if it would affect our work, and to what extent, better or worse? S-
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