Shore has been continually reinventing himself, always searching for new challenges regarding subject matter, and new approaches to the medium of photography. This exhibition guides the spectator through Shore’s outstanding career chronologically, highlighting the major turns and providing the informational background for each. Showing interest in photography from an early age, Shore received a book of photographs by Walker Evans, American Photographs, which had a strong influence on him. Shore’s photographic career had an early start, as he famously sold three prints to Edward Steichen, then curator of the Museum of Modern Art, at the age of fourteen. At seventeen he got the chance to hang out in Warhol’s Factory (his studio), producing candid black-and-white portraits, which stood in stark contrast to the brightly colored imagery Warhol is usually associated with. Following his experience in the Factory, Shore created several conceptual series – sets of pictures that are seemingly the same from afar, but which reveal differences upon closer inspection. In the series, Shore aimed to explore the effects that the camera has upon our perception of the world.
A groundbreaking project was the series titled American Surfaces, which was a result of Shore’s travels around the US between 1972 and 1973. A sort of diary, yet unrelated to Shore’s specific personal experience, the photographs present a neutral, emotionless and apparently anonymous perspective on objects, people and their surroundings. Shore was deliberately imitating amateur aesthetics and at the same time reaching back to the tradition of the documentary (as represented by Evans), blending both of these approaches into a new one – one which was to become characteristic of him. In American Surfaces, the photographer’s interest in the unspectacular manifests strongly – a package of milk, a meal on a plate, a stray cat, a road sign – focusing on subjects that would not be commonly captured in pictures in the early seventies. Things might have changed with the arrival of digital photography and eventually Instagram, but Shore’s aim and aesthetics were different then that of most today’s Instagram users. His photography practice has always been an attempt to arrive at a deeper understanding through observation, as well as a search for new ways of thinking about the medium of photography.
After American Surfaces, Shore went on to explore new urban-scapes and taking up a new camera; he also changed his formal approach. This changed the character of his photographs and made his snapshots more studied. If Shore was trying to capture human life via its traces earlier in his career, at some point he began running away from this and went on to photograph landscapes. In the nineties, Shore deliberately formulated an artistic agenda and started working in black and white, choosing stones as his subject. In his most recent work, however, he comes back to color photography and to capturing environments influenced by the presence of people – as seen in his pictures from Ukraine or those from Winslow, Arizona, which are part of Doug Aitken’s project, Station to Station.
Freeing himself from widely accepted conventions of the photographic medium, Shore has been continually exploring its limitations and possibilities throughout his career. His work combines elements of the documentary and artistic reflection, examining how photography structures and shapes our perception of the world. A pioneer character in the field of photography, Shore is an important point of reference for artists working today.
By Natalie Zehnalova