Stephen Shore’s photographs of ordinary America have had an extraordinary impact. Shore spent the 1970s criss-crossing the continent to assemble his two best known bodies of work, American Surfaces and Uncommon Places. These photographs focused on the minutiae of modern life, unveiling the exceptional beauty to be found in banality and, in the process, pioneering the two most important photographic idioms of the past thirty years: the diaristic snapshot (later taken up by such artists as Nan Goldin and Wolfgang Tillmans) and the monumentalized landscape (as practiced by such photographers as Thomas Struth and Andreas Gursky). Shore was also one of the first art photographers to work in colour, capturing the sky blues, mustard yellows and avocado greens of a nation whose chromatic enthusiasm occasionally outstripped its taste.
Less well known are Shore’s earlier works. While still in high school in the mid-1960s he undertook a three-year project shooting Andy Warhol’s legendary studio, the Factory, at its creative peak, featuring a revolving cast of characters that included the Velvet Underground, Nico, Edie Sedgwick and of course Warhol himself. Soon afterward, inspired by the intellectually fertile late-1960s New York art scene, Shore produced a body of conceptual work seldom exhibited but fully engaged with the revolutionary ideas shaking the foundations of modern art. These works are fascinating not only for their contribution to the redefinition of the art object but also for the way they prefigured much of Shore’s work to follow, including American Surfaces and Uncommon Places.
Since the 1970s Shore has continued to expand his repertoire, moving effortlessly between black and white and colour, landscape and portraiture, large format and small. In so doing, he has proven himself to be one of contemporary art’s most vital photographers. As fellow photographer Joel Sternfeld writes in the Focus section, ‘What may ultimately be at stake in his pictures is the pure condition of sight itself.’
Christie Lange's Survey tracks the artist’s remarkable development from his precocious beginnings to his most recent groundbreaking work. In the Interview Michael Fried asks the artist what steps he takes when composing photographs to embody them with such a vivid sense of spatial empathy. Joel Sternfeld’s Focus looks at Holden Street, North Adams, Massachusetts, July 13, 1974, a deceptively simple image that masterfully interweaves colour, content and composition. Artist’s Choice features a range of historical quotes that distill centuries of wit and wisdom into a handful of timeless maxims. With language as uncluttered as his photographs, the Artist’s Writings offer a clear view of his incisive thinking on the subjects of photography, vision and experience.
Paperback, 11 3/8 x 9 7/8 in
160 pp, 80 colour photographs, 40 black and white photographs