Stephen Shore is a photographer who holds a special influence for me as I became familiar with his work as my interests moved from the craft of photography to the photograph as art. His style, which focuses on the everyday, has been described as banal, vernacular, democratic and led to the concept of the snapshot aesthetic – all things that I find appealing in photography. His work is simultaneously straight documentary and highly conceptual and it is difficult to overstate the influence has had on photography as an artform.
I came across an article in The Guardian by Sean O’Hagan which although predominately about Shore’s new book ‘Transparencies: Small Camera Works, 1971-1979’ also provides insight into Shore’s strategies and motivations. Describing his ‘democratic approach’, Shore states:
“To see something ordinary, something you’d see every day, and recognise it as a photographic possibility – that’s what I’m interested in.
I have always been interested in everyday experience…It relates to an idea I had…of what it might be like to pay attention to the average moments in your life, rather than just the dramatic moments. Attentiveness is self-awareness – you are aware of yourself paying attention. It was a different experience and I was nourished by it. I still am.” (O’Hagan, 2020)
In an earlier article, also by O’Hagan, Shore says this about photographing the everyday:
“To see something spectacular and recognise it as a photographic possibility is not making a very big leap…But to see something ordinary, something you’d see every day, and recognise it as a photographic possibility – that’s what I’m interested in.” (O’Hagan, 2015)
I love this idea of looking closer, and photographing, things that others may pass by and dismiss as unworthy subjects for a photograph – it is something that deeply influences my own work.
At the end of O’Hagan’s article, Shore describes his current engagement with Instagram and how he is using this to explore the notion of democratic photography in the digital world with Shore posting a single image a day shot on his iPhone. He describes his attraction to this way of working:
“It means I work every day…It can be diaristic or it can be pictures I find interesting. I recently posted a picture of the steering wheel of my car and someone commented something along the lines of: ‘Jeez, you’ve finally run out of subject matter.’ So I replied: ‘Yep, that’s it exactly.’ I think that most people understand my Instagram feed is not my gallery…I’m interested in visual thinking, and there is something very personal and revealing about this kind of visual thinking that I just find fascinating.” (O’Hagan, 2020)
Having felt a bit stuck, uninspired and struggling to find the time and motivation to make photographs lately Shores approach and enthusiasm resonated with me and has inspired me to use Instagram as a way of making work. Instagram is not something I have strongly engaged with in the past but something that suddenly struck me as having potential as a creative outlet. I have set up a new account for this project, dailywalkdiary, and have started to use this as a way of motivating myself to take photographs each day, and most importantly, do something with them. I follow broadly the same route each day and photograph anything that catches my eye – I am not sure if this will evolve into anything else, and to be honest that is not important, as the process itself has already helped reignite my creative energy.
Images from Stephen Shore’s Instagram:
As an aside I came across the comments these comments on Shore’s Instagram intriguingly juxtaposed:
O’Hagan, S. (2015) Shady character: how Stephen Shore taught America to see in living colour. The Guardian, 9th July 2015. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jul/09/stephen-shore-america-colour-photography-1970s (accessed 10th May 2020)
O’Hagan, S. (2020) Stephen Shore: ‘People would chase me off their lawns with my Leica’. The Guardian, 29th February 2020. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/feb/29/stephen-shore-ordinary-america-photographs-interview-plate-camera-leica?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other (accessed 29th February 2020)