Emulating Stephen Shore #We35 contact sheet exploration

the backstory

Stephen Shore has had a profound impact on my work and creative vision. Though my work is informed and influenced by Shore's work, I never intentionally tried to emulate his images. I decided to explore what it might look like to see Denver through the lens of Stephen Shore for the contact sheet #We35 assignment

I'm not pleased with the outcome of my work, but it was an exciting exploration of my city's streets.

The concept

I started by selecting 36 inspiration images by Stephen Shore that featured urban landscape scenes. I chose this set of images, because they look at street-type scenes — which I wanted to feature in my contact sheets.

Stephen Shore hypothetical contact sheet

More about stephen shore's work

Shore was one of 10 photographers whose work was shown in 1975 at the George Eastman House in the "New Topographics: Photography of a Man-Altered Landscape."

This pioneering exhibit showed a reimagined landscape: stark and banal. It flew in the face of conventional landscape work, like that of Ansel Adams, and invited viewers to explore the impacts and aesthetic of urban sprawl on the landscape, and their lives.

Stephen Shore images

Shore is also well-known for his works "American Surfaces" and "Uncommon Places." Click the links to check them out.

#We35 Research results

Digital first

I started with a digital camera to get warmed up.

My digital contact sheet — straight out of the camera

I didn't love my photos. They fell miserably short of replicating how Shore may have seen my city. The light wasn't favorable, and kept changing throughout the day. I had a great time at first, making these photos, but I began to feel constricted. I'm a street photographer. Characters, fascinating street characters — passed my by in a steady stream. It was tempting to pull out of my project and go after those images, but I persisted.

Melanie J. Rice - Denver Street Scene - Feb. 2017

As I shot I reflected on how easily I am distracted — how important it is to really focus on projects, goals and bodies of work.

I almost always shoot black and white, but since Shore shot color, I attempted to process a few of my images with a look reminiscent of his work. As you can see, I left the dust spots alone.

A few digital images from the shoot. Yes, I believe Shore would have made the photo of the guy passed out on his porch. ;)

My favorite digital image

Yes, I even took the dust spots out

and now—the film

My film contact sheet

I was disappointed in the scan quality almost as much as my images. Not sure how the images got out of order in my Lightroom template, either. Haha.

A closer look at several film pics

Working through this assignment, I was reminded that each of us has our own unique creative vision. We can never truly see through the eyes of another.

Please forgive the poor scan quality of this JPG

Shore's work implies a sense of detachment, yet conveys a stark beauty in the banal. I see almost a sense of urban isolation in some of his images. Perhaps I've captured some of that essence in my images, but they fall far short of Shore's work.

We're unavoidably influenced by those who have gone before us, like Shore. But our work is our own. It's as if we're continuing the conversation started by those photogs—in light of our own vision, impacted by those and others who have gone before us. We're truly standing on the shoulders of giants, with tools available today that can be a boon or a distraction from our work. It's good to follow our passion and develop our vision, and at the same time to acknowledge where our inspiration comes from.

My favorite film image. This looks better on the negative than this low-res scan.
Created By
Melanie J. Rice
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