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PORTFOLIO

15.04.2020

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Here is a previously unseen treasure to be discovered: Transparencies. Small Camera Works 1971-1979 opens up Stephen Shore's Leica Archive, offering new access to a well-known series of his works. Uncommon Places is now considered one of the milestones of photographic history; and Shore one of the most renowned contemporary photographers in the USA. With his pictures, he made a decisive contribution to the New Color Photography movement, which established a completely new style from the 1970s onwards. Street corners, billboards, shop windows: middle-class America in the seventies, largely overlooked and made up of highways, small towns and landscapes that very specifically reflect the living environment of the United States five decades ago. At the time, the general public and, in particular, museum curators were irritated by such banal and commonplace imagery. It was not self-evident for the photographer either: until he turned twenty-three years old, Shore had only ever been aware of an area covering a few square kilometres of Manhattan. As the photographer admitted in an earlier interview, travelling by car across the United States was something of a culture shock, a wakeup call that hit  him hard. Soon his eye was being drawn to commonplace things as though he was seeing them for the first time.
Up until now, Shore has mainly been known for his large-format images. The recently-published photo book, however, changes that perception, because the photographs he took with his Leica on that road trip are now being brought to the attention of the general public. However, the Leica photographs, which are being published in their entirety for the first time, do more than simply deliver new variations of his already known 8x10 images. The change of format to 35mm slides from large-format negatives has also changed habitual ways of seeing and perceiving.  

LFI: How did you rediscover your Leica images?
Stephen Shore: I shot them on Kodachrome. The only acceptable method of printing slides at the time was dye-transfer; but I preferred the subtlety of Type C prints, so I just never printed them. Then Quentin Bajac and I went through all my work to prepare for my MoMA retrospective in 2017, and decided to include some of them. I made inkjet prints from scans of the slides.

What was the relationship between the Leica and the 8x10 camera that you worked with at the time?
For years, my primary camera was the 8x10. Using this was the focus of my attention. There are a couple of groups of pictures in the book where the Leica was the only camera I was using.

How do you see these images today?
Some people think my pictures from the seventies are nostalgic; but this is simply the result of the passage of time. If a photographer is working in the moment, is attentively present, the resulting pictures can have a feeling of now-ness.

Text and interview: Ulrich Rüter

The whole article can be found in LFI 3/2020.
The book can be ordered at MACK.

© All pictures: Stephen Shore. Transparencies: Small Camera Works 1971–1979 (MACK, 2020); courtesy 303 Gallery, New York.
Equipment: Leica M2 with a 35mm Summicron

Stephen Shore

Stephen Shore’s work has been widely published and exhibited for the past 45 years. At age 23, he was the first living photographer to have a solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York since Alfred Stieglitz, 40 years earlier. More than 25 books have been published of Stephen Shore’s photographs including Uncommon Places: The Complete Works and American Surfaces; works which are now considered important milestones in photographic history. Shore is represented by 303 Gallery (New York) and Sprüth Magers (London and Berlin).


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