Note on Stephen Shore’s ideas

This post was supposed to be about Walker Evans’ Subway series, but I got diverted by a couple of Vimeo clips on Stephen Shore talking about his series Uncommon Places and American Surfaces. The clips are linked below.


I was particularly struck by three of his ideas. The first is the snapshot aesthetic and how he emphasised that by not matting and framing his images at the time, and instead pasting them onto the bare wall. He also mentioned that he felt that smaller images forced the viewer to pay attention to them, if they are interested, and that this opened a channel of communication between photographer and viewer, along the axis of time. I am not entirely sure what he means about the axis of time, but the channel of communication part makes sense to me.

In the American Surfaces clip, he talks at length about the idea of the unmediated experience, which was about “taking a screenshot of his field of vision” at a particular moment, recording whatever was in front of him and took his interest. He mentioned how being in the “right frame of mind” allowed him to see something interesting in ordinary everyday objects.

This all sounds very much like the idea between mindful photography, something regular readers will know I am interested in. That also speaks of the right frame of mind, which is calm and open to whatever image presents itself, as opposed to seeking out things to photograph. I strongly suspect that Shore was an influence on the movement.

One thought on “Note on Stephen Shore’s ideas

  1. Simon Chirgwin

    I think that the “axis of time” comment is to do with the viewer seeming to occupy the same space that the photographer occupied in front of the scene portrayed, but only after a certain amount of elapsed time (and that – if you look at the pictures in American Surfaces – you are gazing back nearly 50 years, now). It’s the same thing that boggled Barthe’s mind when he found himself staring into a pair of eyes that had looked into the eyes of Napoleon…

    Glad you found it all interesting, but sorry to have distracted you from the contemplation of Walker Evans!

    Liked by 1 person


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