real Talk: PhoTograPhy acroSS generaTionS
heroes & Mentors
Crewdson: So it was like you were location scouting for the next body of
work in a certain way?
shore: Yes, but I explored [the question of] how to put the picture together
in a different way. I started making the pictures more and more structurally
complex, and then making them less [complex] and more and more natural,
more and more transparent, so that after four years I was attempting to take
pictures with the 8 x 10 that that did in fact feel like “American Surfaces,” but
having gone through this whole process, following a spiral
and coming back to the same point but on a different level.
Crewdson: Were you aware of a coming together of form
and content that seemed defining at the time?
shore: Yes. In fact, by coincidence this is something that has
been on my mind for several months. [Book dealer] Markus
Schaden put together a project where a group of six German
photographers are taking pictures in America that are somehow
influenced by a picture I took in Los Angeles in 1975 at the intersection of Beverly Boulevard and Le Brea Avenue.
That picture was one of the two most structurally complex
I [had] made at the time. As I was taking it I realized to what
extent I was imposing a seventeenth century classical landscape
vision on a twentieth century street corner. I couldn’t help myself, I had to make the picture, but as soon as I took it I felt how
far I had come from this idea of the natural. Here is this one-point perspective going down the center. Like [French landscape
painter] Claude [Lorrain] would have a classical pediment [on
the side of the frame], I had the Standard Station. It bothered me
the degree to which I was imposing a visual convention on my
experience. So I went back to the same intersection the next day
and took a different picture that didn’t have any of those qualities. This is what was on my mind: How much am I imposing
Above: “Granite, Oklahoma, July 1972,” by Stephen Shore.
Right: “Untitled,” from “Natural Wonder,” 1993, by Gregory Crewdson.
Shore: Color added a layer
of information. why is this room
painted this color? what does
it mean? It’s as resonant with
meaning as the form of things
and so fascinating to me.
an order and how much am I imposing a different kind of visual
convention on the world? And is that getting away from communicating the experience?
Crewdson: Color at that time was a radical departure, par- ticularly in this tradition of landscape photography. What were your thoughts on it? shore: Before “American Surfaces” I was doing these snap- shots with the Mick-A-Matic, and all snapshots were in color. It’s really as simple as that. You couldn’t get a black-and-white snap- shot then. You couldn’t take film to your corner drugstore and get black-and-white processing. Also, all postcards at the time were in color. When I was traveling with Amarillo as my base I would collect postcards, which would be of a motel or a diner or a main street—something an art photographer might not
have thought of photographing. They were often made without
any kind of artistic pretension, and they were in color and the
color added a layer of information. Why is this room painted this
color? What does that mean? It’s as resonant with meaning as the form of things
and so fascinating to me.
© STEPHEN SHORE/COURTESY 303 GALLERY, NEW YORK
Crewdson: What kind of ambitions did you have towards photographic
beauty and transcendence?
shore: That’s a very good question. I’m going to separate [beauty and tran-scendence]. The only time I ever heard Evans speak was at the Modern [Museum
© GREGOR Y CRE WDSON/COUR TES Y GAGOSIAN GALLER Y