Jun 2015

After Stephen Shore

The second year of the MA is yet to start, but this work feels like it belongs here rather than in the previous year - it’s a sort of continuation from the Ruscha gasoline stations in that it’s revisiting another artists work through Google Street View, so it could have gone there. However, it’s the start of the project, so I can only assume I will be adding more to it as the year progresses (I’m not imagining this as part of the major project I’m expecting for the second year though). Whatever, it’s here now.

Stephen Shore is something of a bright light in terms of contemporary photography, one of those early American colour guys that changed the way of things. I’ve written about him before, during my photography degree, about how his photographs invoke non-existent memories in me (Uncommon Places). These (non) memories will actually be drawn from watching American TV shows when I was growing up, things like Starchy & Hutch, The Streets of San Francisco and Kojak, etc. I guess it wasn’t just police shows, but then again, maybe it was. What I’m really referring to is a familiarity with the things he shot, even though I never saw them personally in the era he photographed them (70s and 80s).

One feature of his photographs is that his captions are detailed. Whilst I find that captions that direct a response are a distraction for me, Shore normally gives a geographical caption so that, together with other visual clues, the location of the scene can be pinpointed. This has then allowed me to revisit his site with GSV and recreate his images with something more recent.

Sutter St
Sutter Street and Crestline Road, Fort Worth, Texas, July 2014

Now, clearly the quality is not the same. This is not my intention. Shore used LF cameras and a very precise technique, whereas I am limited to what the GSV car captured on its way past. The newer images are far “better” than the older ones, but then, so what? The quality of the image is part of the GSV trope, together with odd stitching, excessive lens flare and the odd superimposed street name, etc. It’s part of what identifies it. My intentions are more to do with the passage of time, appropriation of an idea within a contemporary photography context and the virtual journey. I.e. they’re similar to what I was working with on the gasoline stations.

I suspect that whether people will “get” what I’ve done here will depend on their familiarity with Shore’s work. Without that appreciation of the original, these re-photographs will perhaps fall a little flat for the viewer. Is there anything “special” about a GSV image the corner of Sutter Street and Crestline Road? Or a nondescript section of the US97 in Oregon (especially now the billboard has gone)? Indeed, was there ever anything “special” about them? Or did Shore make them special through the act of photographing them? Did he transform them into something worth looking at because he chose them? This is something that has always appealed to me, the elevation of the normal, the mundane.

Anyway, here’s a few more that I’ve recreated to date.

Klamath Falls
US97, South of Klamath Falls, Oregon, October 2013

Desert Center
California 177, Desert Center, California, July 2014

Richland Mall
Richland Mall, US 30, Mansfield, Ohio, June 2011