Stephen Shore (born October 8, 1947) is an American photographer known for his deadpan images of banal scenes and objects in the United States, and for his pioneering use of color in art photography.
Stephen Shore was interested in photography from an early age. Self-taught, he received a photographic darkroom kit at age six from a forward-thinking uncle. He began to use a 35mm camera three years later and made his first color photographs. At ten he received a copy of Walker Evans’s book, American Photographs, which influenced him greatly. His career began at the early age of fourteen, when he made the precocious move of presenting his photographs to Edward Steichen, then curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Recognizing Shore’s talent, Steichen bought three of his works. At age seventeen, Shore met Andy Warhol and began to frequent Warhol’s studio, the Factory, photographing Warhol and the creative people that surrounded him. In 1971, at the age of 24, Shore became the second living photographer to have a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Shore then embarked on a series of cross-country trips, making “on the road” photographs of American and Canadian landscapes. In 1972, he made the journey from Manhattan to Amarillo, Texas, that provoked his interest in color photography. Viewing the streets and towns he passed through, he conceived the idea to photograph them in color, first using 35mm and then an 4×5″ view camera before finally settling on the 8×10 format. In 1974 an NEA endowment funded further work, followed in 1975 by a Guggenheim grant and in 1976 a color show at MoMA, NY. His 1982 book, Uncommon Places was a bible for the new color photographers because, alongside William Eggleston, his work proved that a color photograph, like a painting or even a black and white photograph, could be considered a work of art. Many artists, including Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky, Martin Parr, Joel Sternfeld , and Thomas Struth, have acknowledged his influence on their work.
ARTINFO’s Philip Gefter notes that Stephen Shore as well as William Eggleston borrowed from photorealist painters, such as Robert Cottingham, Richard Estes and Ralph Goings. Gefter notes, “[Shore and Eggleston’s] interpretation of the American vernacular — gas stations, diners, parking lots—is foretold in photorealist paintings that preceded their pictures.”
Books of his photographs include Uncommon Places: 50 Unpublished Photographs; Essex County; The Gardens at Giverny; Stephen Shore: Photographs 1973 – 1993; and The Velvet Years, Andy Warhol’s Factory, 1965 – 1967. In 1998, Johns Hopkins University Press published The Nature of Photographs, a book Shore wrote about how photographs function (reprinted in an expanded edition by Phaidon Press). Most recently, Aperture has published Uncommon Places: The Complete Work, and Phaidon has published American Surfaces.
Shore is represented by 303 Gallery in New York; Sprüth Magers Berlin London; and Rodolphe Janssen in Brussels.
Currently Shore is the director of the photography department at Bard College, a position he has held since 1982.
« Until I was twenty-three I lived mostly in a few square miles in Manhattan. 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. I would be in a flat nowhere place of the earth, and every now and then I would walk outside or be driving down a road and the light would hit something and for a few minutes the place would be transformed.
Color film is wonderful because it shows not only the intensity but the color of light. There is so much variation in light between noon one day and the next, between ten in the morning and two in the afternoon. A picture happens when something inside connects, an experience that changes as the photographer does. When the picture is there, I set out the 8×10 camera, walk around it, get behind it, put the hood over my head, perhaps move it over a foot, walk in front, fiddle with the lens, the aperture, the shutter speed. I enjoy the camera. Beyond that it is difficult to explain the process of photographing except by analogy:
The trout streams where I flyfish are cold and clear and rich in the minerals that promote the growth of stream life. As I wade a stream I think wordlessly of where to cast the fly. Sometimes a difference of inches is the difference between catching a fish and not. When the fly I’ve cast is on the water my attention is riveted to it. I’ve found through experience that whenever–or so it seems–my attention wanders or I look away then surely a fish will rise to the fly and I will be too late setting the hook. I watch the fly calmly and attentively so that when the fish strikes–I strike. Then the line tightens, the playing of the fish begins, and time stands still. Fishing, like photography, is an art that calls forth intelligence, concentration, and delicacy. » Stephen Shore, 1982