Stephen Shore

Stephen Shore - Instagram


South of Klamath Falls

Stephen Shore photographed his iconic South of Klamath Falls in 1973. It's probably one of the first of his photographs I remember seeing, although maybe it actually wasn't. Many of his photographs are "ordinary" and don't necessarily stick quite so readily in the memory banks. In the video interview (below) he talks about how Klamath Falls is so obviously a photograph - "it didn't take a great leap of imagination", whereas the 70s lamp isn't, although it has become nostalgic. It was about what it looks like. Whilst I can't revisit Shore's hotel room, this is sort of what's at the heart of my After Stephen Shore project; to see what it looks like now.

With South of Klamath Falls being so iconic and significant for me, I was really happy to have found what looks like the location on GSV, the result of painstakingly moving along the road and seeing what the next section looks like, seeing if there are any clues that the location might be the same. In this case, unfortunately the billboard has gone, but there is enough to make me think it is right. Shore's journey is being layered with another temporal journey, an evidential progression that indeed illustrates what the passage of time has done to a space.

This comparison Shore makes in the video also brings in something I've long thought about, the fact that the meaning of photographs changes over time. I can imagine that, back in 1974, a large format photograph of a lamp in a hotel room will have been highly progressive. "It's not art" - still life "art" photography will still have been thought about in many corners as something the likes of Kertész made with his La Fourchette from 1928. Of course, this was changing as the modernists were being edged out, but Shore's photograph pre-dated Eggleston's colour MoMA show in 1976 which was credited as heralding the arrival of colour photography in the art world. Back to my point though, Shore states the image has become "nostalgic". All the "banal" or otherwise ordinary things that are being photographed today will soon disappear. Perhaps as the nature of our society changes, they will disappear more quickly in physical terms, but will probably have been recorded in one way or another by the plethora of photographs taken. Granted, not all these photographs are "art", there a lot of Facebook and Flickr dross out there, but there are a lot of people working in the arts that do record, do document in an aesthetically pleasing and intellectually questioning way. That's something I like about photography - it can be both documentary and art at the same time. Yeah, the other arts can do as well, but photography does it for me.

loeil de la photographie
Decryptage : Stephen Shore, South of Klamath Falls, 1973
L'Oeil de la Photographie

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


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