Master photographer Stephen Shore is celebrated in Arles
Stephen Shore is celebrated at the Rencontres d’Arles this summer with an unmissable retrospective. Here Numéro brings you a selection of his mythic images, ahead of an exclusive interview with the photographer in the August edition, out on 23 July.
The retrospective of work by legendary American photographer Stephen Shore at the Rencontres Photographiques d’Arles this summer plunges the visitor into the magnificent, lively, prolific and intense world of this native New Yorker born in 1947. To put it another way: the show is unmissable. “Most of all I hope this retrospective, which started out at the Fundación Mapfre in Madrid, won’t turn out to be a first-class funeral,” jokes Shore. “I’m only half way through my career.”
A career that has taken him all across the U.S. and around the world (most recently Ukraine and Israel) as well as through multiple formats and techniques, all of which he masters with astonishing assurance – something that has become an integral part of his legend. Technically unbeatable, Shore is also a major theoretician: with his cult series American Surfaces and Uncommon Places, begun in the early 70s, he was among those who elevated colour photography to the same level of respectability as the black and white of the great masters he knew so well, Walker Evans and Robert Frank. While these two series – which were the result of exploratory road-trips into deepest America, and which depict sun-flooded landscapes, weird moods and quirky places – are not the only aspect of his oeuvre, they are nonetheless a good starting point for understanding it.
In them he demonstrates a particular attraction to the light of the sun, something to which he is too often reduced. For more than anything, and beyond their purely documentary character, all of Shore’s shots are imbued with great spirituality – something that shouldn’t be forgotten, for it’s in his unique way of capturing the genius loci that he stands out. Each photograph communicates the shiver of the wind, the smell of a field, the photographer’s emotion on seeing a particular landscape, his state of mind, or the weirdness of homes lost in the great American wilderness.
Unsurprisingly, this magic is also present in his later return to black and white (which he’d already tried out during his time at Andy Warhol’s Factory) in the form of large New York panoramas, and also in a more recent colour series shot in Ukraine in 2012 and 2013. Shore has always been an archaeologist of the present, travelling the world in search of what seem to him its most significant traces, and giving them a little bit of eternity – first on photographic paper, and now on Instagram…
By Thibaut Wychowanok
Read Numéro’s interview with Stephen Shore in the August edition, out on 23 July.
Stephen Shore retrospective at the Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles (Espace Van Gogh), until 20 September.