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Shifting focus - the Decade interview: Stephen Shore

How an encounter in the past shaped the American photographer's attitude to the future
Stephen Shore photographed by Guido Guidi


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'Let me answer your questions by way of a story,’ says the American photographer Stephen Shore. The questions are threefold; is asking ten leading figures in a variety of disciplines about what they were doing ten years ago, what they are doing now, and what they might hope to be doing in ten years' time. 

As a pioneer in the use of colour photography in the 1970s, and a personal friend of Andy Warhol, Shore was one of the most influential practitioners of his generation. At the age of 24 he became the second living photographer to have a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his 1971 exhibition; Shore's images have endured and his work continues to challenge.

‘In the mid-1970s I was once invited for dinner at a friend's loft in SoHo,' recounts Shore. 'At dinner was Ansel Adams. During the meal I saw Ansel drink six tall glasses of straight vodka and, at some point during our long conversation after dessert, Ansel said - and I remember him saying this in an unemotional, detached way, like a photographer observing something: "I had a creative hot streak in the 1940s and since then I've been pot boiling."

'That experience crystalised something for me. Whenever I find myself copying myself – making pictures whose problems I've already solved – I give myself new issues to pursue. This could be a change of content, or of media, or of camera format, or of the formal questions I'm exploring. For me, the pictures I make are the byproduct of my explorations, not an end in themselves.'


Stephen Shore: American Surfaces

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