Stephen Shore was interested in photography from an early age. Self-taught, he received a photographic darkroom kit at age six from a forward-thinking uncle. He began to use a 35mm camera three years later and made his first color photographs. At ten he received a copy of Walker Evans's book, American Photographs, which influenced him greatly.
His career began at the early age of fourteen, when he made the precocious move of presenting his photographs to Edward Steichen, then curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Recognizing Shore's talent, Steichen bought three of his works. At age seventeen, Shore met Andy Warhol and began to frequent Warhol's studio, the Factory, photographing Warhol and the creative people that surrounded him. In 1971, at the age of 24, Shore became the second living photographer to have a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Shore then embarked on a series of cross-country trips, making "on the road" photographs of American and Canadian landscapes. In 1972, he made the journey from Manhattan to Amarillo, Texas, that provoked his interest in color photography. Viewing the streets and towns he passed through, he conceived the idea to photograph them in color, first using 35mm and then an 4x5" view camera before finally settling on the 8x10 format. In 1974 an NEA endowment funded further work, followed in 1975 by a Guggenheim grant and in 1976 a color show at MoMA, NY.
His 1982 book, Uncommon Places was a bible for the new color photographers because, alongside William Eggleston, his work proved that a color photograph, like a painting or even a black and white photograph, could be considered a work of art. Many artists, including Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky, Martin Parr, Joel Sternfeld , and Thomas Struth, have acknowledged his influence on their work.
ARTINFO’s Philip Gefter notes that Stephen Shore as well as William Eggleston borrowed from photorealist painters, such as Robert Cottingham, Richard Estes and Ralph Goings. Gefter notes, “[Shore and Eggleston’s] interpretation of the American vernacular — gas stations, diners, parking lots—is foretold in photorealist paintings that preceded their pictures.”
‘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 crystallised 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.'