The New Yorker, November 17, 2008
“You can always tell a William Eggleston photograph. It’s the one in color that hits you in the face and leaves you confused and happy, and perhaps convinces you that you don’t understand photography nearly as well as you thought you did.”
Although I feel this quote is true of Eggleston‘s work, this image I am going to talk about is almost monochrome in tone and a much more lonely image; it is less about the colour and, in my looking at this image, more about a narrative:
I have chosen this image to talk about because at first glance it looks fractured making me want to look again. Realising that it is a wing mirror in the foreground I felt a connection to my work, as I often use the wing mirror to photograph when I am a passenger in a car.
Dog in the Middle of the Road reminds me of a Hitchcock film. Although you have a scene set in front of you, the wing mirror shows a rear view. the reflection gives extra layers to the photograph for example, being able to show the past behind and in front the future, the road also stretching out into the horizon, adding extra dimensions.
The bush visible in the wing mirror is at an angle and could also be concealing something, all of this builds tension, mystery, the question why?
In the front view you have a couple of cars in the distance, a man on a motor cycle and a dog, in one car a persons arm is visible resting out of the window, all these elements together make a ziz- zag, starting in the right hand corner leading down to the rear view mirror. This creates a line of view which you can follow easily, which include all the main points of focus.
The dog is lying in the middle of the frame and in the middle of the road and looks like he’s about to move off, the man on the motorcycle appears ready to put his helmet on; this continues to build tension as we are expecting something to happen, even if the moment has passed many years ago, it is still frozen in the moment before.
In this image the man on the motor cycle is looking at the dog, the dog is looking at the photographer and the photographer is looking at both, so although there is a relationship between these elements there is something alienated and lonely about how spread out each subject is, thus making them all observers but not participants, this almost triangle of gaze is like a contemplation, each person seems lost in their own moment.
There is also contrast between the beautiful lush trees, something you might associate with an affluent area and the pot-holed road surface, making it look out of place even though the road is the main background for the scene at hand.
Eggleston is famous for his very colourful photographs that look almost like snapshots, knowing that they are actually very carefully thought out, this image to me is stunning; and you can clearly see the strong narrative in this more muted colour image.