Stephen Shore

In this short video clip on Shore’s American Beauty project, Shore describes his photographs as a visual diary, as postcards of where he has been, what he has seen, what he was eating and the people he has encountered along the way. He made this series of photos in the 1970s using a large format camera. During his journey he paid attention to what it was like to see things and make sense of the space around him. Before he takes a photograph he thinks about how the elements relate to each other and tries to find the balance between them and then he looks for a point that seems central to the picture and so finds his vantage point from which to shoot from. He likes recording things of interest without making them the point of the photograph as can be seen in his photograph from the Uncommon Places project (US 10 Postal Falls, Idaho). Shore has developed an awareness of looking at the everyday world with clear and focused attention and it is this that interests him.

Shore is fascinated with how people live: he likes architecture and style of houses. There is an emotional resonance that attracts him to photograph urban neighbourhoods.

At the age of 14 several of his photos were acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. At the age of 23 he became the first living photographer to have a one-man show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

At the age of 17 Shore chronicled the happenings at Andy Warhol’s Factory. He learnt a lot from watching Andy Warhol work. This was his first encounter with an artist working and he came to realize that a lot of the process of art is all about making a series of decisions. Watching Warhol he would see Warhol try something out. If it didn’t work Warhol would discard it and try something else. That was the beginning of Shore’s aesthetic learning.

Shore then spent a lot of time learning about space in a picture. Shore pays attention to the space in a photo and chooses his vantage point of where to stand so that the view point articulates the space as can be seen his photograph of Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico. He is particularly fond of the use of linear perspective and likes to create layers within in his photographs. He never crops his pictures. He believes in working within the boundaries he has set himself.

I really like Shore’s early works in the American Surfaces and Uncommon Places series, as well as his recent Israel/West Bank series. In his landscapes, one gets the impression that one is seeing right into the depths of the photograph, all the way to the horizon. In his “snapshot or postcard” images, he photographs ordinary things of American culture and presents them to us in a new fresh light, showing us the well know subject, yet at the same time providing a new take on it.

Early critics of his work described his American Surfaces series as ‘thin, benumbing and banal’ stating that ‘Shore is hardly making a distinctive contribution to the genre‘ (The Village Voice, October 5, 1972). Little did they realise that they were looking at one of the pioneer’s of colour photography.

Reference List

American Beauty: The Work of Stephen Shore, Docere Digital Studios, Inc. / Joy of Giving Something Inc. 2006. 5 mins 31 secs. (accessed 16/10/2014).

Shore, Stephen (1972) American Surfaces: Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico [online]. Available from: (accessed 19 October, 2014).

Shore, Stephen (1974) Uncommon Places: U.S. 10, Post Falls, Idaho [online]. Available from [Accessed 19 October, 2014].

The Village Voice (1972) American Yawn, Irish Wail [online]. Available from [Accessed 19 October, 2014].