Eggleston’s photographic technique, for which he often eschewed the use of a viewfinder, also drew explicit comparisons with shooting a gun. “Unlike a rifle, where you carefully aim following a dot or a scope, with a shotgun it’s done with feel,” he said. “You don’t look down the barrel and line things up. It’s the opposite of the rational method.” Eggleston claimed he never took the same picture twice. This “snapshot style,” as Weski called it, resulted in images that were “rebellious, unwieldy, uncomfortable, and thus not easy to decipher.”
What influenced him?
Eggleston’s greatest artistic influence is undeniably the late French photographer
, particularly his 1952 volume The Decisive Moment
. This series of images was a vast departure from the style of American masters
, instead capturing spontaneous moments of daily life in a way that felt personal and fresh. Eggleston discovered Cartier-Bresson’s work in college. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything more than making a perfect fake Cartier-Bresson,” he once said. “His were the first pictures I’d seen which weren’t just straight-on pictures like everybody else’s. He had angles like
After a trip to Paris, however, Eggleston realized that his artistic idol had exhausted that city’s photographic potential. He would have to find a new subject—but, as he complained to a friend, “I don’t particularly like what’s around me.” The retort helped the young photographer discover his inclination toward the road less traveled. “I had to face the fact that what I had to do was go out in foreign landscapes,” Eggleston said. “What was new back then was shopping centers, and I took pictures of them.”