Stephen Shore at MoMA

Art Scene

Stephen Shore at MoMA

Before the age of 21, Stephen Shore had sold photographs to the Director of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, Edward Steichen, and become a regular presence at Andy Warhol’s Factory. Born in 1947, Shore’s lifelong exploration of photography is presented in chronological order in the Museum of Modern Art’s Stephen Shore, the most comprehensive exhibition of his work to date.

Stephen Shore. New York, New York. 1964. Gelatin silver print, 9 1/8 × 13 1/2″ (23.2 × 34.3 cm). © 2017 Stephen Shore, courtesy 303 Gallery

A clean presentation of various epochs in Shore’s oeuvre clearly reveals his meticulous study of the medium of photography over time. From a timeline of works dating from 1961-1967 that features black and white street photography and images of Warhol, to his American Surfaces series of snapshots taken from 1972-1973, or his 2012 documentary style photographs shot in the Ukraine circa 2012, Shore’s interest in the everyday curiosities of life is evident.

Stephen Shore. Amarillo, Texas, July 1972. 1972. Chromogenic color print, printed 2017, Chromogenic color print, 3 1/16 × 4 5/8″ (7.8 × 11.7 cm). © 2017 Stephen Shore, courtesy 303 Gallery

The simplicity of Shore’s content offers a refreshing juxtaposition to the highly manipulated images so prevalent in today’s society. Exhibition materials note the consistency of Shore’s process as a central theme in his work, “the search for maximum clarity, the absence of retouching and reframing, and respect for natural light. Above all, he exercises discipline, limiting his shots as much as possible—one shot of a subject, and very little editing afterward.”

Installation view of Stephen Shore. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 19, 2017–May 28, 2018. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Robert Gerhardt

Much of Shore’s early work includes either people, places, or objects, featuring a range of subjects from billboards, diner food, and cars, to his conceptual Serial Images series of 1969-1970 featuring his friend Michael Marsh as his main model. A striking contrast is a body of work shot from 1979-1993, In the Wilderness.

Installation view of Stephen Shore. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, November 19, 2017–May 28, 2018. © 2017 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Robert Gerhardt

Shore began to move away from shooting urban and suburban spaces in the 1970s. The natural landscapes of Montana, Texas, the Hudson Valley, the Highlands of Scotland, Mexico’s Yucatán region, and the Po Valley in Italy became his primary subject matters for several years, coinciding with a respite from a more public life as a photographer. There is an unexpected quietness in the images, which seems to reveal Shore’s favoring of photography and the camera as a tool, over any particular subject matter.

Stephen Shore. Uman, Cherkaska Province, Ukraine, July 22, 2012. 2012. Chromogenic color print, printed 2017, 16 × 20″ (40.6 × 50.8 cm). © 2017 Stephen Shore, courtesy 303 Gallery

Shore is credited with being the leader of the 1970s New Color Photography movement in the United States, and for bolstering a resurgence in American and European documentary photography in the 1990s. He has not shied away from digital photography, and engages it as a continuation of his fascination with vernacular, recreational photography that includes his use of a 35mm Rollei camera with flash in the 70s and his current embrace of Instagram.

Stephen Shore is on view at MoMA through 5/28/18.