Stephen Shore Transparencies

Small Camera Works 1971-1979


Stephen Shore is one of the most significant photographers of the 20th century, often considered alongside others like William Eggleston, who rose to prominence by capturing a banal and unglamorous vision of American cultures. 


Following in the footsteps of Walker Evans and Robert Frank, Shore travelled the length and breadth of the country ‘fascinated,’ he says ‘simply by what things looked like, what store windows and hotel beds looked like, what the food looked like on my plate, how people were dressed, what their hairstyles were like. I realised that I should simply keep a visual diary …’


Shore is most well known for his first two highly influential and iconic books produced from these 1970’s road trips. The first, American Surfaces was taken with a Rollei 35mm camera, whilst the follow-up Uncommon Places was produced using a large format camera, after a suggestion from the famous photographer and curator, John Szarkowski. This led to a more rigid, formal composition fitting to the cumbersome camera and its necessary tripod.


Together, they gave the world a new image of the vernacular American landscape, approximating what has come to be known as the snapshot aesthetic. It was a style dismissed at the time by many critics, but it was enduringly influential and Shore is now recognised as one of the truly great photographers.


Remarkably, via this new publication, we have the revelation that during the making of Uncommon Places Shore had all the while also been simultaneously snapping away with a 35mm Leica. 


Stephen Shore Transparencies: Small Camera Works 1971-1979 from Mack Books reveals this treasure trove of images culled from over 100 rolls of film. 


The new publication is an essential accompaniment to Uncommon Places and as well as an insight into the making of American photography’s most iconic photo books, it has its own distinct aesthetic.


Unsurprisingly the images are less formal and more akin to snapshots. They are intimate, spontaneous and personal, while retaining Shore’s formal sensitivity.


Whether or not you would like to add Transparencies to your coffee table selection you should definitely add Stephen Shore’s instagram to your feed. Even at the age of 72, he is still interested in the possibilities of what could be called democratic photography posting a daily iPhone image on to his 184 thousand (and climbing) followers. 


These ‘throw-away’ snaps are by turns clever, witty and stylish showing that Shore still has what it takes to present an insightful vision of the world.


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Stephen Shore Instagram @stephen.shore


August 15, 2020