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Stephen Shore on Certainty and Sh*t

I was in the middle of writing a post about film and how much I’ve enjoyed using it in the last two years when compared to digital. It was your typical bla bla blog post, and halfway through I came across a link into 2point8, which led me to this exhibit of Stephen Shore’s that’s currently up at the Henry in Seattle (a nice space there, an old lunchtime favorite).

The interview (35mg) of Shore by curator Elizabeth Brown is of poor quality, but there’s an interesting exchange at the beginning that I’ve quickly transcribed below. If I’m hearing/reading it correctly, Shore describes how film taught him how to develop his own sureness in what it is he wants from his pictures. In shorthand, film’s expensive, so get it right the first time. Elizabeth Brown in bold.

Q: Do you end up making a lot more pictures than you use?

SS: No.

Q: Do you end up making *any* more pictures than you use?

SS: A couple. 8×10 color is very expensive. Back in the 70s it cost 15-20$ a shot for the film, the processing, and the contact sheet, now it’s twice that. And to do good work, you can’t just take pictures that you know are going to be good, cause then you’re never going to learn anything or experiment. So the economy came in that I didn’t take two of anything. And so I realized I’m going to have to decide what it is I want. Standing in front of a building, where do I want to stand? Where in this intersection do I want to be — and not take five of them and try and figure it out later?

What I found happen was, after years of doing it, it forced me into a kind of sense of certainty. I figured out what it is I want, and so there was no reason to take more than one. And now when I take pictures with any camera, I still shoot the same way. When I look at students’ contact sheets and I see a picture of a lampost and there are five pictures of a lampost from the same place - it drives me crazy. Why would the second picture be any different from the first picture?

But anyway, I don’t take a lot of pictures. Or actually, I take a lot of pictures but…

Q: They’re all good.

Later in the interview is this gem:

SS: “I went on to flickr and it was just thousands of pieces of shit, and I just couldn’t believe it. And it’s just all conventional, it’s all cliches, it’s just one visual convention after another.”

More Shore on 2point8. A follow-up to this post here.

Tag: Tidbits