Aesthetics in Ordinary and Mundane Subjects

Most photographers have a natural tendency to shoot impressive subjects like the Grand Canyon, the Eiffel Tower, exotic wildlife, outstanding landscapes, beautiful people and what have you.  Others prefer to aim their cameras at ordinary and mundane things that you see every day.  You see them so much, that after a while they become invisible.

William Eggleston (born July 27, 1939), is an American photographer. He is widely credited with increasing recognition for color photography as a legitimate artistic medium to display in art galleries.

Eggleston’s mature work is characterized by its ordinary subject-matter. As Eudora Welty noted in her introduction to The Democratic Forest, an Eggleston photograph might include ‘old tires, Dr Pepper machines, discarded air-conditioners, vending machines, empty and dirty Coca-Cola bottles, torn posters, power poles and power wires, street barricades, one-way signs, detour signs, No Parking signs, parking meters and palm trees crowding the same curb.’

Eudora Welty suggests that Eggleston sees the complexity and beauty of the mundane world: ‘The extraordinary, compelling, honest, beautiful and unsparing photographs all have to do with the quality of our lives in the ongoing world: they succeed in showing us the grain of the present, like the cross-section of a tree…. They focus on the mundane world. But no subject is fuller of implications than the mundane world!’

Mark Holborn, in his introduction to Ancient and Modern writes about the dark undercurrent of these mundane scenes as viewed through Eggleston’s lens: ‘[Eggleston’s] subjects are, on the surface, the ordinary inhabitants and environs of suburban Memphis and Mississippi–friends, family, barbecues, back yards, a tricycle and the clutter of the mundane. The normality of these subjects is deceptive, for behind the images there is a sense of lurking danger.’ American artist Edward Ruscha said of Eggleston’s work, ‘When you see a picture he’s taken, you’re stepping into some kind of jagged world that seems like Eggleston World.’

According to Philip Gefter from Art & Auction, ‘It is worth noting that Stephen Shore and William Eggleston, pioneers of color photography in the early 1970s, borrowed, consciously or not, from the photorealistic. Their photographic interpretation of the American vernacular—gas stations, diners, parking lots—is foretold in photorealistic paintings that preceded their pictures.

Photograph of “The Red Ceiling” photographed by William Eggleston.  Eggleston’s, The Red Ceiling, is also known as Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973. Credit: Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

Inadvertently I have been shooting ordinary subjects for over a year.  I thought there was a subtle beauty in them that we never saw because we were too busy with our daily life to take a deep look at them and really “see” them.  My wife often asks, “Omar, what is there to see in these shots“?  I always smile back and reply; “Everything!”

Below are some of sample shots of ordinary subjects in our house.  Take a look at the aesthetics of the routine world— invisible to most people.  Here we go.

Snapshot of a small pantry in our kitchen. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of Internet cables inside a clay pot in my home office. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Snapshot of shoe boxes in one of our closets. The red boxes really stand out from the rest of the items stacked on the corner of the closet. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

Source:  Wikipedia Encyclopedia

2 thoughts on “Aesthetics in Ordinary and Mundane Subjects”

  1. Great information on this photographer and I have to agree that the mundane shots are not mundane at all. We then see things that have become invisible in our day to day lives. Nice photos, Omar, I like the clay pot one a lot 🙂

    1. Morning Barbara:

      As they say, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Many of the things around us are often neglected and overseen. But once you train your eyes to discover reality, they stand out and shine.

      Thank you for your daily comments. I love them. Bring them on. 🙂



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