This post reflects on a visit to the Stephen Shore (b1947) retrospective exhibition in Huis Marseille, Amsterdam, visited on 13.7.16.
Shore is a photographer of huge influence, first selling work to MoMA at the age of 14 and going on to have his first exhibition at the age of 24 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the 1970s he was one of the few photographers working in colour. The retrospective contained 200 photographs covering the period 1960 to 2016 (Huis Marseille).
O’Hagan explains, ‘in the 70s, everyone hated Shore’s quirky photographs of everyday life because they weren’t in black and white. Now, a new retrospective shows how he became a modern master – and how the masses finally caught up with him’.
“To see something spectacular and recognise it as a photographic possibility is not making a very big leap,” Stephen Shore once said. “But to see something ordinary, something you’d see every day, and recognise it as a photographic possibility – that’s what I’m interested in.”
The breadth and depth of the work on display in the exhibition is a staggering, covering street photography, landscapes, urban and suburban environments, conceptual work, and archeological landscapes. It is difficult to know what can be said simply and concisely about it. Mentioned here are just a few images of interest.
The early selection or Shore’s black and white work is reminiscent of Robert Frank’s The Americans, with wonderfully composed snapshot street portraits, which subjects at the edges of the frames, and their gazing drawing the eye into and across the frame.
This type of street photography is often poorly emulated by amateur photographers, who hold onto the black and white tradition, seemingly believing that any candid street photograph makes arresting viewing.
In early 2000, Shore was to revisit black and white photography and a street style. This panoramic image features the main subject sharply focused and contrasted to the left of the frame and in the middle distance.
They eye is then drawn forward and across the image creating an illusion of depth in two dimensions.
The photo below shows a suburban landscape, with almost a graphical illusion of depth. As the viewer, one has the sensation of stepping into the scene; carefully placed diagonals pull the eye into the distance, towards the mountains.
The final image selected for this post shows an landscape, in which man’s mark and influence on the scene has been embraced and shown in the photograph; no attempt show a beautify, unspoiled landscape, or to digitally remove the power lines, which etch man’s mark across the scene.
An excellent exhibition, which will further encourage my exploration of the ordinary for photographic possibilities
Huis Marseille [website]. Stephen Shore / Retrospective. Available from: https://www.huismarseille.nl/en/tentoonstelling/stephen-shore/ [accessed 15.7.16]
O’Hagan S (2015). Guardian [online]. Shady character: how Stephen Shore taught America to see in living colour. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jul/09/stephen-shore-america-colour-photography-1970s [accessed 15.7.16]