Stephen Shore | HOW TO SEE the photographer with Stephen Shore

22 31

“Whenever I find I repeat myself, I look ahead in a new direction.” — Stephen Shore

Photographer Stephen Shore wants his pictures to feel as natural as speaking. In this gallery tour, Shore reflects on his six-decade long career—from his early work taking pictures in Andy Warhol’s Factory to road trips across America.

“Stephen Shore” is on view at The Museum of Modern through May 28, 2018. For more on Stephen Shore, visit

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The comments and opinions expressed in this video are those of the speaker alone, and do not represent the views of The Museum of Modern Art, its personnel, or any artist. 

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  1. Patrick Downey says

    I wonder if that boy (in his fifties now, if he's alive) ever found out he's in an important Stephen Shore photo.

  2. NoComment NoName says

    Too intellectualized and analytical as a result, boring work.

  3. will_scott__ says

    wow how did i miss this?! what a legend

  4. Eileen Welzel says

    very interesting. learned a lot

  5. Timothy Clarke says

    and very, very last, I tested this Composition issue with film last year, in my 3D lighting class, when I broke down the movies "Prometheus" and UP", 2 masterpieces I felt, and I captured the first and last frame of every shot, of every scene, of the entire film(s), then I put it in Premiere, and put a Golden Mean fine-line Grid, in one color, overlayed it with a Rule-of-Thirds grid in another color, and then over-layed a center cross-hairs grid in a third color, and then spat each film out in 720p and 480, in 2 7-9 minute avi movies, which I ran at about a frame every 2 seconds I think, maybe 1 a second….. prometheus_shot_by_shot_720p and UP_shot_by_shot_480 .. and it was/is amazing. because you see the composition and the shot-to-shot contrasts and relationships, and these symmetries are very in use for placing Eyes etc… and general shot placement/composition, whether it is Asymmetrical, symmetrical etc… and I sent the link to my drive for RSA and Pixar to grab a copy but did not keep them up long, but I still look at them here and there to see not just frame/shot composition, but also you see the progression of things such as coloration, contrast, shot angles etc… which in some films can intensify as the film progresses to the climax, as one method of subconsciously building energy/tension…. anyway. That's it….:) There was also a great book regarding this craft of visual communication called

  6. Timothy Clarke says

    John Coltrane Draws a Picture Illustrating the Mathematics of Music

  7. Timothy Clarke says

    Last point, was that I also didn`t understand the concept of Curating and where it stood, but this is the perfect example, in that I am curating the Art to the Gentleman asking why it is in a museum and why is it special, so I am trying to convey the significance and Curating it, but it goes further into actual Art, in that for physical works, it needs to be presented physically in a setting, and that is a work of Design Art, of creating a Space in harmony with the Work and conveying the theme of the show and creatively adding elements to push the objects in the show, and in addition, the larger theme at times.

    And figuring out ways to bring in and engage the public and help them enjoy and at minimum understand the significance of the Art and yes, why it is there…:)

    So it is Presentation Design but also requires being the translator to the public-at-large, of the significance of the Art conceptually and where it stands in the larger scheme of that sphere of Art and maybe also in the larger sphere of Art in General. In the case of the Photo Conceptualists, I think it needs that extra curatorial work, because it is a complex thing, like some Jazz Saxophone by John Coltrane, Zoot Sims, or Miles Davis, I am not crazy about some of it as an enjoyable listening choice, some I like, but some twists my brain…, but I see where it stands and can accept their brilliance and relevance, despite not embracing it as a listening choice. But I have a Jazz Saxophonist friend, who played it a lot and explained the complexity of the technical brilliance of these guys, he needed to Curate Jazz to me.

    And I learned too that Artists also have to Curate their work as well. You cannot just finish the piece and walk away…:)

  8. Timothy Clarke says

    It really comes down to what he said about how much our Visual Cortex can take in in a millisecond… so there is a very complex and established Art-Craft-Science of communicating to your subconscious brain visual information, even when you only see it for a split second or a quick cut in a movie Ad or Video, animation etc…. it is very core to our day to day lives…..and studied and the professionals who work at ILM and Sony etc…. are masters and they work purposefully to get effects of Compositional Perfection and harmony in every shot and scene…because they are getting paid good money and are expected to produce just as any other professional, using their skill-set….. but from a public standpoint, what goes into it is often not understood and Photo Conceptualism is presented as general Fine Art, which some very much is, but it is also very theoretical and it is Research also, which leads to new ground broken in the field of Visual Communication which Art is a part of or it is a part of Art…:)

  9. Timothy Clarke says

    and I agree with Stephen that Fine Arts students should study photography, because it is the purest form of the science of composition I think and I did not take photography in my BFA and I did not get Stephen`s and the Vancouver School work and I was somewhat belligerent and aggressive at the lack of traditional beauty…. And it was only later in 3D and Film education, that I saw Bruce Block: The Visual Story: Creating the Visual Structure of Film, TV and Digital Media . this will give you an idea of how much goes into what you see and why you could not on demand do what these people do. by fluke yes. but in the real world we don`t make buildings by fluke and we dont make 50 million dollar films`or 20 million dollar Ad campaigns to sell or save Children`s lives etc…. by fluke – we are masters and it is a long evolved area, at the core of human society and life. …..and it starts with the core of works like this.

  10. Timothy Clarke says

    The other thing I learned too, was that in art, to actually have a piece of art in your home or space, sometimes you want major eye candy bling, but other times you want just a harmonious object that does not pull your attention away, but still dresses the space. and these photo conceptualists use symmetric and visual harmonies that the great painting and art masters have used for millennia, and it can be a banal landscape, but it has a Composition Harmony…and that is perfect in that spot and doesn't take away from your own focuses. It is all around us and these works, like these ones in the video, if not used as art on a wall, which many can, do 100% have 6 degrees of separation from Ads, Films, TV shows, etc…. that you see all the time, and the big companies, who do the highest end work, pay Specialists, who know how to make that image have the effect on you to it`s maximum potential, just like in any other profession. – so it is funny, because, often it is not Eye Candy, although some is, a lot is, but much is very ground-breaking work, which professionals use to make a scene from the next Star wars look comfortable to the eye, and a concept artist like me, would do a concept landscape absolutely using every trick I know to give it the effect that has been requested. – and it took years and thousands of hours of study etc.. just like any other field and now more than ever, the world of visual media has expanded and affects you more than ever. — It is my craft and there is a science to it. and It is relevant, but not apparent…:)

  11. Timothy Clarke says

    The rules… they go back to Greeks and earlier, of human sense of visual harmony and in the modern era. Photography is probably the purest form of Composition, because in film it can move and in Painting, I can change the world to harmonize. Steven`s works are studied by people like myself and my instructors, who make films at Sony Image Works here in Vancouver and elsewhere, and you see it every day, more than ever in history. In media of all types and in ALL films and high end contemporary art, in a big way. BUT you are not expected to understand what people study and can create òn demand`and get paid well to make Star Wars, Alien etc…. but they and I, we study those works because there is a whole science of visual communication that goes into what you are being bombarded with every day. But no, even as a Painter of 15 years, I hated it, until I realized how 100 percent necessary it is, in order to pull it off and make a living at it. in other words, having to o it 1000s of times… so you need a rule system, which goes back to the Golden Mean and Ansel Adams used it scrupulously.

  12. Timothy Clarke says

    Regarding: why are these photos in a museum? What makes them great? As a representational Artist I entered the Art Education world late and coming from an outside/public-at-large view, even as a Painter, I butted heads with the Photo Conceptualists like hitting a razor sharp cheese grater, it was torture to accept it as Fine Art. Now, after 10 years of delving deeper and schooling in Fìne Art and later 3D Animation and film art, I do understand it. It is the science of Visual Communication and your not expected to understand it.BUT it is in EVERYTHING you see that is professional media. I can make you look in one area without you realizing you want to, I can make you feel a certain way, using visual cues that are not obvious to you.For a film, every start and end of every shot, in high end works, is a carefully created `composition`. You will see maybe 300 in a film and not realize it.

  13. deaguirrrock says

    Funny thing, I almost went to Bard College…

  14. NegativeFeedback says

    This was great

  15. Steff P says

    Really enjoyed this video!! I can hear Stephen Shore talk about his work and thoughts for hours. Very interesting.

  16. Olga Alexander says

    He explains the concept of perception and awareness so well! Is every picture then taken with these elements a good picture … an interesting picture ?

  17. Olga Alexander says

    I love it when artist do the talking!

  18. Filippo Stoppa says


  19. JBL Creations says

    I'm going to offend people but I don't know how to ask my question without offense.
    I'm having a difficult time understanding his photos.
    I like them.
    My question is, why are these photos in a museum? What makes them great?
    While I did enjoy them, I didn't find them to be photographs that made me say "WOW!"
    I've seen stunning photographs all over the internet sites that will never make it into any museum let alone the MOMA.
    So then, what did I miss?

  20. ron johnson says


  21. Robin Betts says

    I love Shore's analogies: his aspiration to the condition of speech versus writing, the comparison with the conscious/unconscious skill of an actor with articulate seeing. I guess this might not be the place for it, (if he's simply been asked about seeing,) but a tip of his hat in the direction of William Eggleston, and a comparison of their intentions would have been interesting? Their points of departure seem so close.

  22. Chris says

    2:22 great!

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