Stephen Shore: The Book of Books

The American Photographer Documents His Everyday in a New Visual Monograph

Stephen Shore’s candid eye, vivid color palette and balanced composition are revealed in an iconic image taken at the Merced River in California’s Yosemite National Park in 1979. Reinterpreted into a series by cropping into sections of the original photograph, Shore creates a remix of his own work as part of his new landmark publication, The Book of Books, which unites 83 separate projects into a two-volume tome. In August 2005, prompted by The New York Times coverage of Hurricane Katrina, Shore set out to produce an entire book for every day the paper ran a story worthy of a six-column front page. “It was not about the event itself, but what life was like on that day,” he explains. Using print-on-demand technology, he turned each book shot within the span of 24 hours into a limited edition, self-published visual diary that he then distributed at his galleries. The individual titles are now gathered for the first time in the 2,000-image-strong catalogue raisonné. A pioneer of contemporary photography, Shore spent his teenage years taking pictures at Warhol’s studio and was integral to introducing color photography into the contemporary art world in the 1970s. At the ripe age of 24, Shore was the first living photographer to have a solo exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and to date his work has featured in many publications including Elle and W magazine. Here, the photographer talks about taking publishing into his own hands.

Aside from adding 2,000 images to your archive, what has this project given you?
It has forced me to pay attention to life throughout an average day. It is not only the dramatic moments that deserve attention, but the small moments, too. 

Did you decide on the subject of each book beforehand?
There are a couple of different ways to structure a book. One is to collect pictures together––for example, pictures that I have taken over the last ten years. Or there is another way, which is to photograph with the book in mind. That’s what these were. As I was photographing, I was thinking about how the pictures would relate to each other in a book and about how what I was photographing at one moment related to what I had photographed ten minutes before.

Was creating print-on-demand books a liberating experience compared to conventional publishing?
Yes, but it was also just a lot of fun. It was great to engage with this technology. I could just stay up late one night, put a book together and then four days later FedEx delivers the finished product to my door. When I think back at what it took for me to have my first commercial book produced, and the years that went into it, now I can put a book together in an evening and have it a few days later. It’s just amazing.

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