William Eggleston – Two Girls on Couch 1976

When photographers gather and conversation turns as it will to Eggleston, you hear a lot of talk about color. After all, the man all but made color photography a meritorious visual art medium single-handedly.

What everyone misses in the justified fuss and bustle over grand spectacle of color is just how deliciously subversive the work is—rich with subtly deviant, transgressive flourishes.

Take the Red Ceiling: check out the poster edge stretching into the lower left corner of the frame; and how damn fucking creepy is this one yet you don’t stop to think about that because the print is so warm, mellow and aesthetically pleasing.

Eggleston is unrivaled in inciting within the spectator an understanding of why—visually speaking—the photo was taken without being aware that such understand implicates the spectator in the artist’s gleeful disdain for anything conventional.

Yes, Two Girls on Couch is not overtly sexual. At the same time, it is not asexual. It focuses on a slippery intimacy, how crossing that perilous bridge over the chasm of puberty changes our instincts with regard to bodily relationship to others.

The fluidity of girl-childhood and femininity in a shimmering ghostly game of leap frog. Customary lines of communication shorting, reconnecting, fading. Being your self to another no longer fits as well, pinches at the seams, effort a new ingredient to produce the same old recipe.

If this possessed the sumptuous colors of Eggleston’s dye transfer prints, the voyeurism of these girls intimacy would read as a leering older man fetishizing a moment he is outside.

Make no mistake such undertone belongs here even though it has been carefully diminished with harsh lighting (a single overhead bulb?)—atypical in Eggleston’s oeuvre. By checking the customarily sumptuous color, the focus shifts away from the artist’s craft and more toward the immediacy of the moment. 

This is not porn. It isn’t exactly transgressive either. But to not recognize the way it edgily toes the line is to miss at least half of what is at work here.

I dig the shit out of edgy. All the better when the craft is fucking impeccable.

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