Stephen Shore’s photographs, from vehicular to vernacular

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Bellevue, Alberta, August 21, 1974

Clément Chéroux, director of Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson was quite funny when he gave us the title of the new exhibit he curated: “From Vehicular to Vernacular”. What he meant is that Stephen Shore and he chose pictures from the huge sum of shots by the American photographer (b. 1947), which had all been taken from a vehicle or more recently by a drone. This is his first exhibition in Paris in 19 years. A hundred images shot between 1969 and 2021, which are in black and white at first and explode into multiple colors later. “American Surfaces” and “Uncommon Places” are two of his most famous series characteristic of his “Americanness” and his taste for useful and popular vernacular topics.

Madison County, Montana, August 9, 2020

Shore took his first pictures at age 6 and always tried to keep a traveling eye, developing serial sequences and creating a visual diary. All the beds he slept in, all the meals he ate, etc… He would take snapshots and send them to be printed by Kodak in New Jersey. He presented them in a grid, two hundred of them. Edward Steichen  bought three of his photographs for MoMA when he was fourteen…

Stephen Shore with is grid of shots “American Surfaces” and curator Clément Chéroux

In 1971,  a curator of the Metropolitan museum acquired his pictures for the Met. He became the first living photographer to have his work exhibited there. He was part of Andy Warhol’s factory in 1969 and his first series was very conceptual with voluntary mistakes. He was trying to get rid of conventions. One of his scientific interests was brought to him by a friend who taught at Caltech twenty years ago. He had devised an application “Be my Eyes” for blind people. It put all pictures into words.

U.S. 10, Post Falls, Idaho, August 25, 1974

Mobility has always been central to his work, starting with a trip to L.A. in 1969 with his father, when he took pictures from the car window. And if you go downstairs in the gallery, you will find amazing sceneries of Bozeman, Sedan, Meaghan County and Madison County, in Montana and great shots of towns like Ashland, Wisconsin or North Adams, Mass.

Holden Street, North Adams, Massachusetts, July 13, 1974

The exhibition is very joyful and brings us an image of the U.S. that we all love. And the staging is very well done with blow ups of pictures and even parking signs and fire hydrants…

Until September 15, Fondation HCB, 79 rue des Archives, Paris

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