real Talk: PhoTograPhy acroSS generaTionS
heroes & Mentors
Left: “Untitled,” from “Beneath the Roses,”
2005, by Gregory Crewdson.
Crewdson: That’s part of the con-
dition of making art in a certain sense.
You absorb traditions and attempt
to reinvent and make them your own
and then the next generation does the
shore: Have you ever read The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions by
© GREGOR Y CRE WDSON/COUR TES Y GAGOSIAN GALLER Y
shore: A very interesting book. He’s
the person who really popularized the
word “paradigm.” Talking about science,
he said for something to be a paradigm it
has to have two qualities: It has to be sufficiently unprecedented and sufficiently
open ended so that people can continue
the exploration. If it’s not open ended
it’s not a paradigm. And in terms of photography, someone could take a picture
based on one of mine and it’s not a copy
of mine because one is my vision and the
other is their vision.
Shore: I saw myself as an explorer. I was thinking about the
structural problems in the photograph, [about] photography as
a technical means of communicating what the world looks like if
you see it in a state of heightened awareness.
of Modern Art], at the time of his big retrospective in
the early Seventies. He talked about his photographs
being transcendent documents. I took that to mean
that he understood that the pictures existed on a level
that had deep psychological resonances that were not
simply a matter of cultural reference, as well as a level
of cultural reference.
I didn’t think about beauty a lot. During “American
Surfaces” I was photographing every meal I ate and
what art on walls looked like. I saw myself as an explorer. I was thinking about the structural problems in the
photograph, [about] photography as a technical means
of communicating what the world looks like if you see
it in a state of heightened awareness. The subject matter that interested me for various other reasons was the
perfect subject matter for this exploration, because if
the subject matter is too highly charged, a viewer can
become involved in those aspects of the picture and be
less open to the subtler aspects of it.
I look at Robert Frank I bristle at it. I have the highest
respect for his work, but in terms of that aspect of my
personality it just seems so pointed. Sometimes people compare my work to his because we both traveled
around America, but at the time I was seeing what I
was doing as almost anti-Frank. That’s another way of
saying that what I’ve chosen to do and the coolness of
it is an expression of my personality.
Crewdson: Both of us are very in-
Crewdson: Do you see the images as invested with
vested in the role of being a teacher.
Why is being a teacher important to
you and how do you see it in relation to
your role as an artist?
shore: Those are separate but con-
nected things. In terms of my art, as I
have a new idea I can put it out in the teaching and it
becomes a testing ground for an idea or perception. But
I see teaching as a separate activity where—this may be
too much mystical thinking—for a person to progress
in their own evolution it’s necessary for them to bring
other people to the place they were. I feel that I have a
duty to do it.
any kind of personal narrative or an aspect of your own
shore: I think it’s inevitable. Even in trying to rid the
picture of it, it inevitably expresses it. This goes back
to my kinship to Evans and having kind of a classical
temperament. There was something in me that, when
Crewdson: Your body of work “Uncommon Places”
has become iconic. How does it feel now to see those
pictures being so influential, not only to younger artists, but you see the references in movies and throughout our culture?
shore: It’s hard for me to answer. I see what you are
saying and it makes me feel good. On the other hand,
I know that in Europe some curators are making a big
thing that I influenced the [Bernd and Hilla] Becher
students and some of the Becher students are uncomfortable with this. I don’t understand that because it
doesn’t take away from their achievement that they
have been influenced any more than it takes away
from what I’ve done to talk about looking at Evans
and Ed Ruscha and postcards—we all have influences.
How can you be an intelligent artist in our culture and
not have influences and not work on a basis of things
Crewdson: I feel that same obligation. I always
find that it’s important to have that connection to the
next generation of artists that are coming up. It keeps
you vital in a certain way.
shore: My goal as a teacher is to help [my students]
find their own voice, so if I have ten people in class it
means I have to think like ten different people and that
has proven to be an interesting mental exercise because then when I go out to take pictures, it’s like I’ve
been flexing my esthetic faculty and I simply see more
potential or see more opportunities, and wind up taking pictures that don’t look like my pictures. This whole
process, this whole endeavor of teaching has pushed my
Cre wdson: What words of advice would you give a
shore: Don’t try to please anyone else, unless you are
going to Bard or Yale.