Stephen Shore's Vision: Capturing the Mundane in Photography - Essay Sample

Published: 2023-09-12
Stephen Shore's Vision: Capturing the Mundane in Photography - Essay Sample
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Media Art
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 907 words
8 min read


The vision of Stephen Shore regarding the ordinary world is now so universal an influence on photography. Shore is considered one of the most important photographers of our time. According to The Art History (2019), Shore together with other artists rose to fame in the 1970s by capturing the mundane aspects of popular American culture in clear-cut, unspectacular images. Shore has worked with numerous types of photography, changing from cheap automatic cameras to large-format cameras in the 1970s. After which, Shore pioneered the application of color before converting back to black and white in the 1990s. In the year 2000s, Shore took up the prospects of digital printing, digital photography and social media.

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Stephen’s Shore Biography

Stephen Shore is an American photographer born in 1947 in New York City. Shore is prominent for his images of banal scenes and objects in the U.S and revolutionary application of color in art photography (The Art of History, 2019). Shore was the only child of Jewish parents who owned a handbag company and lived a fortunate life with, annual trips to Europe and continuous exposure to art and various forms of culture. According to The Art History (2019), Shore at the age of six was given a darkroom by his uncle, which Shore used to create snapshots of his family, taken with cheap and simple Kodak Brownie. Shore frequently experimented with various techniques of printing the snapshots using cardboard masks. Shore had little effort taking his photographs and was bought a 35 mm camera ate the age of nine by his parents.

Critical Evaluation of Shores Photograph’s

Though Shore has taken many street photographs over the years, three of the most important photos by Shore are discussed. The first photograph is the Rene Ricard and Susan black and white photo. The photo is one of the many snapshots taken by Shore at Andy Warhol’s studio and the factory and reveals a group of individuals gathered in different repose states on space’s risers while some clothes are hanging above them (The Art History, 2019). Rene Ricard and Susan Bottomly stand on the left side of the photo posing for the camera, while others look away. The majority of individuals in the image was regulars at the factory and was involved in creative work. The photograph is appealing for its intimacy; the subjects look aware of Shore’s camera; however, are unbothered. Shore captures the subjects in a human, unguarded and ordinary moment, which shows his talent in recognizing the value every day and capturing it is clear in this image.

The second photograph is the 1972 Oklahoma City. The image of Oklahoma intersection belongs to the sequence of images referred to as American Surfaces, captured by Shore in his first drive across the U.S (The Art History, 2019). At the center of the photo is the section where two roads intersect, discernable by traffic lights and a vertical sign indicating the Texaco station observable behind two cars on the right side of the photo (The Art History, 2019). American Surfaces is meant to be observed as a sequence, where trivial details of life on the road such as televisions, beds, food on tables built to convey an anonymous monotony of North America. The photo goes against several compositional rules; the image has numerous focus points and is framed in a way that Texaco sign is cropped by the top of the photograph.

The third photo is the 1973 Breakfast, Trail’s End Restaurant image. The photo is found in the best-known series by Shore know as, Uncommon Places, and shows a breakfast table at dinner (The Art History, 2019). The breakfast is set on a table lined with a lamination imitating wood, placed diagonally from the camera. The breakfast is a plate pancake, bordered by Hopi petroglyphs, placed between cutlery on top of a placemat indicating scenes of white colonizers and Native Americans. Away from the camera, is a bowl that has a half a cantaloupe at a central position at the top of the frame and a salt and paper shaker to the right glass of water with ice and a glass of milk. For Shore to take the photo, he had to stand on a chair and elevate the camera, and above him, the camera fixed to a tripod on an angle (The Art History, 2019). The ostensible simplicity of the photo erases the authorial presence of Shore. In addition, the difficult angle in which the camera is balanced is contradicted by the lines, framing and shapes, all of which show the deep consideration in the photograph.

Lesson Learned

Shore adopted casualness, together with a pure instinct for composition which turned out to be his signature in his series Uncommon Places and American Surfaces which became landmarks of contemporary American. Shore has spent his career creating pictures that are noteworthy out of overlooked subjects and through technologies out of elite favor. Some of the applicable lessons I can apply to my photography is to develop a visual diary through photographs, experiment with various formats and shoot color for visual precision and realism.

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: Rene Ricard, Susan Bottomly 1967

Figure 2: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 1972

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 3: Breakfast, Trail's End Restaurant, Kanab, Utah 1973

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 4: Tarrytown, New York, 1960

Figure SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 5: Room 125, Westbank Motel, Idaho Falls, Idaho, 1973


The Art History. (2019). Stephen Shore Photography, Bio, Ideas. Retrieved from

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