William J. Eggleston was born in Memphis, Tennesse, but grew up in the small Mississippi town of Sumner. He became known as “the father of color photography” for his striking photos of people, events and landscapes in the South.
Although he had been been a professional photographer for several years in the South, it wasn’t until a visit to New York City in 1967 that Eggleston became known outside that area, when the curator of the Museum of Modern Art saw a collection of Eggleston’s slides and was so taken with them that several years later he arranged an exhibition of Eggleston’s work at the MoMA–the first individual exhibition of color photography in that institution’s history–and it helped make Eggleston a household name in the art world. It wasn’t long before his photos were exhibited abroad to great acclaim. He won the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography in 1988, the Gold Medal for Photography from the National Arts Club in 2003 and was awarded the Getty Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center of Photography in 2004.
Eggleston’s early photographic efforts were inspired by the work of Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank, and by French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson’s book, The Decisive Moment. Eggleston later recalled that the book was “the first serious book I found, from many awful books…I didn’t understand it a bit, and then it sank in, and I realized, my God, this is a great one.”
Use this link for a video of Eggleston at work.