The Museum of Modern Art has a long history with photographer Stephen Shore. The institution first purchased his work in the early 1970s, when a then 14-year-old Shore boldly set up a meeting with Edward Steichen, the director of the Department of Photography at the time. Now, nearly 50 years later, Shore returns to the museum for the largest retrospective of his work ever organized. And MoMA, for its part, does the artist proud, putting up an exhibition that is every bit as intensive, strange, and wryly humorous as Shore’s output.
Chronologically arranged, the show spans Shore’s entire career, from his earliest efforts as a teenager—black-and-white gelatin prints that recall the ascetic style of Dave Heath (as well as an acquisition form filled out by the young artist after his meeting with Steichen)—to the work he does today, almost exclusively on digital platforms.
Included are Shore’s years as the resident photographer at Warhol’s factory, replete with shots of Edie Sedgwick, Lou Reed, Rene Ricard, and Andy himself, among many others; a recreation of “All the Meat You Can Eat,” the installation of hundreds of found photos Shore organized at the 98 Greene Street Loft in 1971; and, of course, the two bodies of work for which he’s best known, “American Surfaces” and “Uncommon Places,” both of which helped usher in the New Color Photography movement in the ‘70s.
Perhaps more than anything else, what sets Shore apart from his peers is his continued interest in new technological forms of the medium. And MoMA’s exhibition captures this aspect of his practice well, showing a variety of cameras that he employed—including point-and-shoots, large formats, and his iconic Mickey Mouse-themed “Mick-a-Matic” toy camera—as well as the many forms in which his photos have been displayed, from print-on-demand books and Shore’s own Instagram, to a set of incredible Studio Realist 3-D prints from the 1974.
Ultimately, the show is more than just an exploration of Shore’s career; it’s a journey through the recent history of the medium, as seen through the lens of one of its most gifted and devoted practitioners.
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