Stephen Shore Profile
Stephen Shore was born in 1947 in New York City into a world that, he has said, was framed by a few square miles of Manhattan and which stayed that way untill he left it for the first time at the age of 25, in a car.
“In 1972 I set out with a friend for Amarillo, Texas. I didn't drive, so my first view of America was framed by the passenger's window. It was a shock.”
That’s what he would write in 'Uncommon Places', the 1982 collection that made his name and established his vision. A red sign on a telegraph pole against a New Mexico sky as big as… a New Mexico sky. Two gas stations and a sky in Los Angeles. A Merced River shore side in Yosemite National Park. A traffic-less road junction on California 177. His future wife in a swimsuit, from behind, half-in and half-out of a motel swimming pool in Tampa, Florida. Big, big C-prints, deep and crisp and even. “What the world looks like in a state of heightened awareness,” he said.
It’s an America on the cusp, a reconsideration of the national landscape, physical and emotional. Away from the poisons of Vietnam, Watergate and inner city meltaway, Shore found – created, maybe – a tourist’s view of his own country. There’s more distance to it than that, though. Its naivety, while not all false, is not naïve either. Above all, it is not ironic. His work has been described as a ‘meditation on what it means to be in the world’.
It’s a view of the world and America, in particular, which came to be known and shared by a world far beyond the confines of the photographic gallery. It’s there, obviously, in Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky and Martin Parr but also in David Lynch movies, Feelies records and Sam Shepard’s face. Like all new and powerful visions, it changed our view of the world. We saw, as if for the first time, what was there all along, really, of course, but also, in a way, wasn’t till we realised it was.
Shore started taking pictures young. A child of plenty, he was given his own darkroom at six and within three years had graduated to 35mm and colour. At age 10, he was given a copy of Walker Evans’ 'American Photographs'; he says Evans is still the photographer he feels closest to. At 14, he showed his work to Edward Steichen, the photographer of fashion and the famous – think Garbo, think Steichen’s 1928 picture of her – who was then curator of photography at MoMA. He bought three of Shore’s pictures.
From 1965 to 1969, Shore hung out in one of the 1960s tightest turned urban vortices, Andy Warhol’s Factory. He did the lighting for The Velvet Underground. He studied Ed Ruscha’s book of photographs, 'Every Building on the Sunset Strip'. He saw Warhol’s half-conscious films being made, with their self-consciously workaday pacing and framing. He watched Warhol construct his assembly line reproductions of the banal and everyday. He photographed the artist, his entourage and his ‘superstars’, a Factory coinage. Among them was Viva, girlfriend to that other pioneer of 1970s colour photography, William Eggleston.
In 1971, Shore had his own show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, only the second given to a living photographer. It was this precocious success that he was running from when he headed out of New York.
As the 1970s progressed, he moved up from 35mm to a 4x5 camera and eventually to the demanding grandeurs of an 8x10. He also took to documenting his life in precise detail, keeping a daily journal and stapling on the day’s receipts. It is, of course, a version of daily life that is steeped in the knowing and reflective repetitions of 1960s and 1970s conceptual art.
He’s had a Guggenheim fellowship and two National Endowment of the Arts fellowships. He’s done fashion for 'Elle' magazine and landscape for 'W' Magazine. He’s shot campaigns for Nike, Orange and Glenfiddich. Since 1982, he has been the director of the photography department at Bard College in upstate New York. In 1991, he returned to black & white and, recently, has taken to working digitally.
The first showing of the photographs he took on his 1972 tour of the country was called 'American Surfaces'. Douglas Sirk, the great film director, a poet of Hollywood colour stock, once said: “The surface isn’t really the surface, but rather a manifestation of the depths.”
To see the work of Stephen Shore visit billcharles.com
Back to Categories
- Average Article Rating 0 Stars
- You must be a registered user & logged in to rate this.
Login | Register