Stephen Shore by Dave Krugman

Stephen Shore (born 1947) started photography at a very young age. He says it’s was fast set in his mind the idea that he was a photographer. He was taking quality images by the age of just 13. Black and White 35mm was what he used to photograph his surroundings. At 17 he met Andy Warhol at a film festival in which both had entered films. Andy invited Stephen to The Factory, Shore found the Factory and the photographs he was able to take there perfect for him and found staying at the factory to be a much better use of his time than going to College. So that is what Shore did, he finished High School and started to photograph at The Factory with Andy Warhol. He spent a few years at the Factory and you can now see that period of time in one of Shores books Factory: Andy Warhol

In the early ’70s Shore made two rather distinct changes to his photography. From photographing raw moments based around people, events and The Factory, Shore went in a different direction. To an extent, you could say Shore went in search of even more realness when he turned to photograph banal everyday scenes in color. Shore created images without visual burdens and expectations that were usually attached to the photographic process. Shore wanted to create images that highlighted a specific way of seeing. Perhaps with our own eyes these things don’t pass thought, but shore and his hyper-awareness was able to see, highlight, and show the beauty in the mundane. Shore was able to find that unique angle in which it all makes perfect sense, the angle in which we can relate to and appreciate, and the angle that as photographers we are in constant search of. To the non-trained eye this type of imagery seems boring and easy, with responses like “I could do that, that's nothing special” commonplace still (even with the new nostalgic feel that grows with time), much the same way people sneered at abstract art and its apparent ease of being able to DIY. Nothing could be further from the truth, sure the actual button pressing of a camera and the technical side of working a camera is not hard and in it’s entirely reasonable to think one could pick it up and make a decent exposure in a days training, less nowadays with the right guidance. But it’s the vision before taking the photograph that is special, being aware enough to notice something with potential and to make something of it, this is the real skill that many photographers take years to really get good at. Stephen started young so it’s almost like he got through to that way of seeing earlier than most since he was really good as a teen. The funny thing is when I ask most photographers about Stephen Shores work it’s the nostalgia that is most pleasing to them, but when Shore what photographing these scenes he wasn’t looking for yesteryear or a sense of nostalgia. He photographed contemporary, but very much ordinary objects and scenes that was anything but new to the eyes of those living in the era.

Perhaps the most known work from Stephen Shore is uncommon places in which he photographed everything from parking lots, gas stations, street corners. A departure from his last work of photographing the banal scenes and expecting the viewer to see as he did, now he was inviting the viewer to explore his images and see for themselves the intricate details that come from large format photography. His images are well composed, almost obsessively so, everything in the scene has space and is balanced in relation to other objects in the scene. Every lamppost, every sign, every window and line all has its place, barely any crossover. This to me is remarkable and perfection in composition.


Stephen Shore in Conversation - Aperture Foundation (1.16.00)

These Perspectives: Stephen Shore and Ian Buruma (57.07)

Museum of Modern Art - At the Museum (10.48)

Photography and the Limits of Representation (1.14.00)