Stephen Shore is a new publication from MoMA, designed to accompany its 2017-18 Shore survey. It’s an interesting sort of exhibition catalog, and while it has examples of Shore’s work from over 6 decades, through all of his different styles formats, the arrangement of the book bothers me a bit.

Following an advertiser’s/underwriter’s statement (! sheesh), a forward from Director Glenn D. Lowery,  and a brief essay from curator Quentin Bajac, the plates are organized like an encyclopedia, under subject headings based around general themes, each with a short historical statement or treatment by Bajac, David Campany, Kristen Gaylord, or Mario Sterli.

Campany’s entries focus on individual images; Gaylord’s are mostly around technology; I missed, or didn’t focus on, the Sterli entries; and Bajac focuses on historical themes, series, etc.

The best thing about this book is that it covers Shores entire career, from his first photographs and time at the Factory, through American Surfaces and Uncommon Places, up through his print-on-demand books in the 00s and his Instagram work today. I’m very familiar with American Surfaces and Uncommon Places, and his work at the Factory… Shore stopped photographing in the Factory in 1967 or something, American Surfaces was over and done with in 1973 or so, and Uncommon Places was finished by 1980 or before, so it’s great to have some examples of his more recent work.

Shore photographs to solve problems, and when he finds a solution, he stops and finds another problem to solve. I deeply admire this, and hope to add some of this into my own photographic practice. But that makes it a bit hard to pin him down. He doesn’t seem too bothered: he’s not photographing for fame or fortune (though he’s mostly made it, now): he photographs to solve problems.

The book is well made, nicely printed, a bit big to sit and read, but only a bit, and it’s chock full of all of images from 60 years of exploration, but it’s not chronological… and that makes it hard to study or recall.


Overall, I’d give it 3.2 stars, mostly because of the encyclopedia aspect. It’s a good-enough idea, but the entries are uneven, scattered, some deep and insightful, some more slapdash.

You can find copies of Stephen Shore all over. It’s not a limited edition or anything. But the real treat would be to catch the exhibition at MoMA, which is on through the end of May, 2018. If you’re in NYC, it’s a don’t miss. The catalog, on the other hand, well, eh. I’m glad to have it, and will likely return to a few of the entries at various future points, but I probably would’ve preferred a more traditional, chronological arrangement.

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