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Stephen Shore and The Book of Books

By Perry Nigro, Art Library Assistant

At 6, he received a home darkroom kit for his birthday.
At 14, he had sold some of his photos to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In his late teens, he was working with Andy Warhol at The Factory.
At 23, he became the second living photographer to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In the late 70s, he drove across the country, and took pictures.

What Stephen Shore photographed was America. Us. The motels and intersections, coffee shops and parking lots, all the “unremarkable manifestations and unpretentious facades” that construct our collective identity from its individual idiosyncrasies. By using a large format camera that required careful setup, Shore sacrificed any sense of action or spontaneity for a more reassuring familiarity. Because his images could be anywhere, we understand that in fact they are Everywhere.

But Shore is more than a documentarian. He has described his process as “clearing space for theviewer” and, in so doing, he invites us inside the picture to find our own place of reference within it. For those who are his contemporaries, it’s a return to times and places they remember, while for others it offers a reconstruction of an unfaded yesterday.

Far from being an anachronism, Shore has continued to explore new themes and processes. In recent years, he has concentrated on a sort of landscape photography, particularly the challenges of representing scale in open, featureless terrain. And in the early 2000s he explored the revolution in digital processing, publishing 83 books using Apple’s iPhoto software. Each book is independent, and represents Shore’s output on a single day. Collectively, they are a statement of process as opposed to an exploration of a topic.

That project features in the current exhibit on the third floor of Deering Library. In 2012, all of Shore’s self-published iPhoto books were collected into two volumes and bound chronologically, allowing viewers to vicariously recreate his experience. Published in a limited edition of 250 as The Book of Books, the Art Library is fortunate to have acquired copy number one. We invite you to see it and other works by Shore in the lobby outside the art reading room.

Selected bibliography: