Pioneering Colour

Pioneering Colour

American photographer William Eggleston’s (b.1939) Los Alamos comes to Foam, Amsterdam, this month. Comprised of more than 2200 images, the series was originally intended to be published in parts, but has been forgotten over the years. Taken on various road trips between 1966 and 1974, it begins in Eggleston’s hometown of Memphis and the Mississippi Delta, and follows his journey through New Orleans, Las Vegas and South California, to Santa Monica Pier. During a trip with writer and curator William Hopps, Eggleston also passed through Los Alamos – a location in New Mexico where the nuclear bomb was developed in secret.

Widely considered one of the leading photographers of the past decades and recognised as a pioneer of colour photography from the mid-1960s onwards, Eggleston’s practice transformed everyday America into a photogenic subject. While many of his images are a familiar sight, this collection remained hidden and unpublished until 2003, when they were exhibited for the first time. Now, Foam shines a light on the comprehensive series, nearly 40 years after the photographer began the project. Los Alamos was begun 10 years before his solo exhibition at MoMA, New York, in 1976, which at the time, was contested due to his daring use of colour.

Eggleston’s signature dye-transfer process, is present in the exhibited collection. The dye process enabled the photographer to control the colour saturation and achieve an unparalleled nuance in tonality; a quality that characterises the 75 dye-transfer prints exhibited at Foam. Showcasing some iconic images, including his first colour photograph, Los Alamos invites audiences to venture into a vibrant world of the seemingly trivial: scenes of traffic signs, run-down buildings and diner interiors all exemplify Eggleston’s “democratic camera”, through which everything becomes equally important.

William Eggleston, Los Alamos, 17 March-7 June, Foam, Amsterdam.

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1. William Eggleston, En Route to New Orleans, 1971–1974, from the series Los Alamos, 1965-1974 © Eggleston Artistic Trust 2004 / Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London.