How Mr Stephen Shore Made The Banal Brilliant

June 2016Words by Mr Tom M Ford

“Ginger Shore, Causeway Inn, Tampa, Florida”, 17 November 1977. From the Uncommon Places series. Photograph © Mr Stephen Shore. Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York.

If you’re unfamiliar with the work of New York photographer Mr Stephen Shore, he is best known for pictures he took in the 1970s which feel a little like how you hope your Instagram feed might look after a trip across the US. If you’re thinking “But social media shots = banal,” well, that was sort of Mr Shore’s thing. “To see something spectacular and recognise it as a photographic possibility is not making a very big leap. 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,” he once said. Indeed, his famous American Surfaces collection – pictures of a road trip taken in the early 1970s and published in 1999 – saw him document everything from what he ate to the store windows he saw.

‘West Palm Beach, Florida’, April-May 1973. From the American Surfaces series. Photograph © Stephen Shore. Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York.

Now known as a pioneer of colour photography (and also the straight, super-realistic type of documentation now common in modern photography), Mr Shore sold his first black-and-white photographs to New York’s Museum of Modern Art at the age of 14. A few years later, he was hanging around Mr Andy Warhol’s Factory taking photographs of the famous artist and his coterie of hangers-on (The Velvet Years: Warhol’s Factory 1965–1967 was published in 1995). When Mr Shore made the switch to colour in 1972, announced with an exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, legendary photographer Mr Paul Strand told him it would end his career. But his shots soon came to be as respected as the likes of Mr William Eggleston, and Mr Shore’s 1982 book Uncommon Places cemented them as works of art.