At the Henri-Cartier Bresson Foundation, America in the sights of famous photographer Stephen Shore

At the Henri-Cartier Bresson Foundation, America in the sights of famous photographer Stephen Shore

The Henri-Cartier-Bresson Foundation in Paris is dedicating a retrospective to the great New York photographer, a perpetual traveler of his native land.

You have to believe in omens. Stephen Shore was born in 1947, the year that the writer Jack Kerouac set off on a journey across the United States from east to west, the origin of his cult novel On the road. For fifty years, the New York photographer has also traveled his country by car, but also by train or plane, as shown in the retrospective at the Fondation Henri-Cartier-Bresson. “He used all types of transport to explore the urban America of brick houses, signs, gas stations…”, explains curator Clément Chéroux.

At 23, the gifted artist who had already been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was looking for “a form of liberation to create images as true to life as possible.” And he would find it, in 1972, on the legendary Route 66, between Arizona and Chicago: “Spending hours behind the wheel plunged me into a state of hypersensitivity to what surrounded me, including what no one noticed.” His first major color series, American Surfaces, therefore appears as a logbook made up of small snapshots of what he has before his eyes at random moments: meals at the drive-in, the TV in his motel, strangers he meets…

Bursting with detail

With Uncommon Places, Stephen Shore continues his inventory of the ordinary in a more elaborate manner, in large formats composed with a view camera, bursting with detail. The scarlet neon of a Wisconsin cinema, the immaculate chapel of an Alberta prairie, a telephone booth on the tawny sand of Arizona stand out… “Color was confined to the press and family photos; he helped to impose it in art,” observes Clément Chéroux.

Over the past twenty years, the pioneer has renewed himself again. After forays by train or plane, he captures the territory from drone height: “This close-to-the-ground flight allows me to highlight the borders, like this town in Virginia, which extends near a highway and a marsh.” “On the way, (…) I would be handed the rare pearl,” Kerouac hoped. Stephen Shore, for his part, used his odyssey to reveal everyday life.

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