Thursday, August 11, 2011

Photographer: Stephen Shore

Since starting on the long road towards a BA, one photographer has continued to capture my imagination, Stephen Shore.  His volume on the Nature of Photographs was an excellent visual introduction in the selection of subject and composition of photograph, a book I return to over again to look for ideas and refine my thinking.

I also have a copy of "Uncommon Places, The Complete Works", however, most recently I have been dipping in and out of "American Surfaces":

This is a remarkable collection of what are essentially snapshots taking with a very basic camera and encompassing pretty much anything he saw that interested him.  Many of the photographs are almost banal; insides of motel rooms, toilets, what he had for dinner that day, the building across the road.  Individually the photographs have limited value, except perhaps as a record of a specific place at a specific time; collectively they paint a broad picture of the United States, the geography, the people that live there and the small details that make up the fabric of life. Taken between 1972 and 1973 on a prolonged road trip, they combine to create a collective landscape, a composite image of the United States.

This collection of photographs attests to the power of a photobook, and very much follows the tradition of Walker Evans and Robert Frank.  As I struggle with my own selection of photographs to make up a 12 image submission for Assignment 1, I envy the freedom and creativity that a photobook offers.  I do not, however, underestimate the challenge involved in sequencing and selection that underlies such a project.  Perhaps I have chosen too broad a subject for this first assignment, but that is the bed I made and where I must lie.

The volume is not intended to be seen as landscape photography, I think most people would not consider it as such, but I see it very much as landscape - it is a description of a place and time using the medium of photography.  That place is too large to capture with a single photograph, its' landscape must be built out of multiple images framing the diversity of place and people.

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