Friday, March 11, 2011

Stephen Shore

Stephen Shore

Stephen Shore is best known for his pioneering use of colour in art photography, at a time where colour was only used by the press. His work generally documents seemingly banal scenes taken while on the road exploring North American culture.

From a young age Shore showed a passion for photography. By age 9 he owned his first 35mm camera. 2 years later he was given Walker Evans' American Photographs and by age 16 he was selling prints to Edward Steichen, then curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). He never went to University, instead started spending time at the factory with Andy Warhol in New York where he gained an interest in photographing everyday culture. There he learned of the benefits of working consistently in series, something that translated into viewing his journeys as photographic sequences.

Shore’s early work in American Surfaces consists of quick point and shoot pictures taken by a 35mm Rollei, generally on small Kodak size paper (something which was very untypical for art photographers of the time) and gave an account of his activities as a traveller. They were spontaneous and un-mediated documenting everything from hotel rooms to the pancakes he would have for breakfast.

In the follow up publication Uncommon places we notice a shift in style. His work becomes more deliberate, calculated and precise. Shore puts this down to a conversation with his friend and curator of MoMA John Szarkowski in 1973 where he questioned the viewfiender of his 35mm camera. Shore took this as a criticism of his framing of photographs. He began using 4x5 and 8x10 format cameras which were associated with press photography of the time and generally required a tripod. He describes being “fascinated with the subconscious or conscious decisions that go into a photograph that working with a view camera would produce”. This led to a change of subject from people and moving objects to scenes that lent themselves to an 8x10 plate camera like buildings, empty streetscapes and carparks.