As the master releases a new edition of his famous work Uncommon Places, we list our favourite Stephen Shore facts
Dazzling swimming pools, skies of unflinching blue, the angular petrol station, the endless dusty road, the Cadillac, the clapboard house, the unpalatable nude of a motel eiderdown. Today, these elements of life in America have become its first language – the established shorthand to denote a world of languor and sun-bleached space, so familiar that it seems to have been that way forever. Yet these vignettes and the social constructs that have built up around them come in part from the craftsmanship of the photographers and filmmakers who, in the late '60s and early '70s, started to cultivate an appreciation for the beauty in banality. Foremost of these was Stephen Shore, a protégée of Warhol, whose 1982 photobook Uncommon Places represented a radical new perspective not only on the American landscape but also in the use of colour in photography. As he celebrates the release of a new, definitive edition of the iconic work, we present some of our favourite facts about this pioneering artist.
1. Shore was determined from the start – in 1961, the director of MoMA’s Department of Photography Edward Steichen got a phone call from a 14-year-old Shore. “I think I didn’t know any better,” Shore recalled to Aaron Schuman, “I didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to do this. So I just called him up and said, ‘I’d like to show you my work.’… He bought three!”
2. Shore was already an emerging member of New York’s art scene when he met Andy Warhol in 1965. Warhol was so impressed by Shore’s enthusiasm and work ethic that he issued an open invitation to the Factory.
3. Over the course of 1965 to 1967, Shore was at the Factory nearly every day, compiling an extraordinary intimate record of the workings of the Warhol’s studio and the people who came, went and socialised within.
4. The overflow from Factory parties sometimes came back to Shore’s parents’ apartment for after-parties – a famous picture of his from the time shows Nico sat at his breakfast table.
5. In 1971, at 24 years old, Shore became only the second living photographer to have a one-man show at the Met – something which is rarely mentioned because this was while he was still working in black and white.
6. While they are commonly considered to be on opposite sides of the spectrum when it comes to their work, Shore adores the work of Garry Winogrand. “That’s what I hang on my wall,” he told The New Republic.
7. Shore’s famous and revolutionary project, American Surfaces, saw him travel the extent of America with only the most basic of cameras, relentlessly photographing “almost every meal I ate, every person I met…every bed I slept in, every toilet I used.” On his return to New York, in order to stay faithful to the project, rather than develop them himself, he sent his films – like most of the tourists of the day – to be processed at the Kodak factories in New Jersey.
8. A key experience for Shore was a dinner he went to in the mid-1970s, where Ansel Adams was also a guest. Shore told Phaidon, Adams drank “six tall glasses of straight vodka” and then, after dessert, he observed, “I had a creative hot streak in the 1940s and since then I’ve been pot boiling.” This encounter reaffirmed for Shore the importance of addressing new issues and challenges in his work, never standing still.
9. “I have to be reminded, ‘It’s your son’s birthday party. Bring a camera,’” Shore told The New Republic. “And then, when I’m there, ‘Take a picture,’ because it doesn’t occur to me to use it as this memorialising thing.”
10. Almost all the work he has done in the past five years has been with a digital camera, and this summer he started up his instagram account, which features the range of imagery that you would expect to find on Instagram – food pictures, pet pictures, tourist snaps and sky vistas – as well as the sun-soaked dusty roads, electricity lines and inimitable mastery of light that he is so well known for.
Stephen Shore: Uncommon Places The Complete Works is out on October 27, published by Thames & Hudson.
Further Reading: 20 Brilliant Andy Warhol Quotes.