2004 Infinity Award: Lifetime Achievement

William Eggleston is our 2004 honoree for Lifetime Achievement
Apr 03, 2004
William Eggleston is our 2004 honoree for Lifetime Achievement

Born in 1939 in Memphis, Tennessee, and raised on a cotton plantation in Sumner, Mississippi, William Eggleston became a crucial figure in the history of color photography by artistically reexamining the ordinary in his native South. At age 18, Eggleston began taking pictures using a Canon Rangefinder. He quickly graduated to his grandfather’s Contax and Leica IIIA cameras, which he used to cultivate his new hobby. The man who would eventually be called the “Father of Color Photography” had little commercial success, though, until several years after an important visit to New York City in 1967. In that year, Eggleston approached John Szarkowski, curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, with an assortment of color slides, the likes of which would nearly a decade later comprise the exhibition “William Eggleston’s Guide.” This exhibition, on view in 1976, was notable for being the first individual exhibition of color photography in MoMA’s history, and it helped revolutionize the art world’s perception of the medium. In the introduction to the exhibition catalogue, Szarkowski wrote: “as pictures, these seem to me perfect.”  

Thereafter, Eggleston was widely exhibited in the United States and abroad. Numerous books and catalogues of his photographs have been published. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974 and a National Endowment for the Arts Photographer’s Fellowship in 1975, as well as the winner of The Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography in 1998 and the Gold Medal for Photography from the National Arts Club in New York in 2003. Eggleston’s work is housed in the collections of the Foundation Cartier in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Japan, among many others.