dimanche 4 avril 2010

Stephen Shore

You famously started taking pictures at a very young age. How did you first become aware of photography?
My interest started following my love for chemistry. A forward-thinking uncle gave me a starter developing kit by Kodak for my sixth birthday and I fell in love with the process of developing and printing family snaps in my bathroom. Soon after I started spending time in a local dark room in New York, where I grew up.

And by the age of 14 you'd sold three of your photographs to Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art, not an average career trajectory for aspiring photographers these days.
To be honest I didn't know any better. I called him up and he had a free appointment so agreed to see me. I was obviously very lucky; apart from anything there are just so many more photographers these days than there were back then, and people in museums were just too busy.

How did you then meet Andy Warhol at the age of 17?
In 1964, I became very interested in film. I'd stopped going to school and totally immersed myself in teaching myself the history of film instead. I was fortunate because there were three main theatres that were revival houses close to me, showing films in repertory, old American as well as European art house films and underground films. In 1965 I'd made a short film and happened to be showing it at the Filmmakers' Cinematech as Andy was showing 'The Life of Juanita Castro'. Afterwards, I went up to him and asked him if I could take some pictures of his Factory, to which he agreed.

He said yes without having seen any of your work? That's quite extraordinary. Presumably he was very approachable then?
We had an interesting relationship, probably quite unique at that time because he didn't want anything from me. I wasn't one of his actors and there was really no need for him to be manipulative with me like he was with some of the big names from that era. I was only 17 and he gave me advice, more on etiquette than my photography. He'd tell me, 'don't say that kind of thing to someone, say this', it was quite a fascinating relationship. Of all the people at the factory, I was the only one who lived Uptown and so did Andy. So sometimes we'd be out in Little Italy or Chinatown late at night and he'd drive me home, and we often would have completely unguarded conversations, where he wasn't doing 'the Andy thing'.

So you actually had total access to him, to the factory persona and to the real man as well. I imagine that put you in a very good position to record his life in the Factory. What strikes me about the set of photographs in the exhibition is that you've captured the characters behind the facades. At first glance, a lot of them look like film stills, simply because we're so accustomed to the characters and imagery, but looking at them closely it's very easy to spot the fragility in many of their eyes, both as individuals and as a group. Would you agree Andy was a fragile character?
I remember one night he dropped me off after a night out in town, and I stayed up to watch a terrible, 1930s tearjerker on television. The next day I got to the Factory and Andy asked if I'd happened to see the film, which of course I had. He said he'd been in floods of tears and then fallen asleep so had missed the ending, but when he'd woken up his television had been switched-off. He guessed his mother had come in and tucked him up before turning off his television. I guess he was a fragile character underneath it all. Other people can tell stories of him being very manipulative, but it just didn't come up with me at all.

Well manipulative people often manipulate to make-up for a lacking of some other emotion, don't they?
I agree. Remember also that Andy was shooting films constantly. The producer, Chuck Wine, would set-up the situations, then Andy would film and everyone would improvise. There was no script. So he needed people who were constantly entertaining. He had to surround himself with people who he could aim a camera at and could be spontaneous and amusing. Also there are some artists who like to work alone, and other artists who draw energy from the people around him. Andy was one of the latter, so he always wanted a swirl of energy around him. He worked every day. People think there was a lot of partying, but he worked very hard and would rely on everyone around him to keep him focused too, drawing from their energy.

Despite the fact you'd already been working for many years, this presumably had a considerable impact, shaping your own work ethic?
It was a very valuable time for me. The bottom line was that it was fun. It was a lot more interesting than my life had been before, and a lot more interesting than most apprenticeships. That was what attracted me to it; these people became my friends, it was fun and exciting. At the same time I was exposed to an artist working for the first time, and saw the decisions that were made everyday and saw someone thinking aesthetically, which again I hadn't been exposed to before.

You're perhaps best known for pioneering the use of colour in photography, yet the pictures from this episode are in black and white. Is there anything you see as a nascent style in these pictures, that you recognize in your future work?
I think I've always had a strong sense of structure. I've always been interested in a visually poised image and I think you can definitely detect that from these pictures.

If you had the chance would you go back and shoot the same pictures in colour?
It's funny, I never wish they were in colour. Just the feel of the place, the sense of action, the rawness, everything about them feels very appropriate in black and white.

How do you reconcile the very professional interest in your subsequent photography, with the perhaps more mainstream interest, largely due to the subject matter, of your Factory photographs?
I rejected my Factory period for a long time. For so many of the others involved, it was the pinnacle of their lives. For me it just wasn't. It was the beginning. I don't think I could have gone on to do what I've done without having experienced that period, but at the time there was no way of understanding what a huge and important figure Andy would become, and still continue to be. I didn't think much about the pictures I took back then until the early 1990s when a British publisher approached me to do a book, 'The Velvet Years', and it was only then I revisited them and grew to love them all over again.

Interview de Stephen Shore Réalisée pour Wallpaper le 26 juillet 2007, trouvée

Uncommon Places

Stephen Shore - South of Klamath Falls

William Eggleston

RICHARD LACAYO: You were born in 1939. When your father went off to the Pacific in World War II, you and your mother moved in with her parents, who had a cotton plantation in the Mississippi delta. But your grandfather was also a judge in Sumner, Miss., about 15 miles away, and kept a house there. So did you mostly grow up in the house in town?

We had two houses. One was the plantation. But my mother stayed at the Sumner house, so I considered that little tiny town my place. Life in the country was sort of remote. It was lonely — the nearest neighbor was fifteen miles. There was nothing in every direction but cotton fields.

Were you an indoors kind of a kid?

I had to be — I had asthma. Until I was about eight or ten, then suddenly it went away forever. Back then there was nothing they could do for it. We had a big oxygen tank in my room. I would spend about twenty minutes a day inhaling oxygen and that seemed to help. It was severe for years, so I was pretty much restricted to being an indoor person. Playing any kind of sports or just running around the block, I would get sick and sweaty.

And you played piano since childhood. Can you read music?

I can. I don't like reading music. It's like learning a language. You can't read music proficiently overnight. It takes time, it's boring work.

I know you also draw all the time, abstract drawings in color. You started to draw as a kid?

And even as a kid the drawings I did were abstract. They weren't pictures of people or things, they were mostly shapes.

Do you find as you've gotten older that your photography is being overtaken by the drawing, the way it happened with Cartier-Bresson? In his later years he stopped taking pictures and returned to painting full time.

Oh no. They're completely separate for me.

You attended a few colleges but never graduated. But when you were at your first school, Vanderbilt, a friend urged you to get a camera and start taking pictures, which you did. At what point did you start to think, I'm not a painter, I'm a photographer?

It never crossed my mind. I first entered Vanderbilt as a freshman and for several years before that I had been to a boarding school. My closest friend there shared my interest in music and electronics. Photography completely disinterested me. Even then he would urge me to get a camera. But it wasn't until we were both at Vanderbilt that he marched me down to the premiere camera store in Nashville and I bought a camera with a view finder. This was in the days before single lens reflex.

So if somebody hadn't come along and pushed you into photography you might never have found your way there?

I give him all credit. Because the very day I bought the camera I loaded it up and went to Centennial Park where they have this big reproduction of the Parthenon. I took some color pictures of it and had them developed as slides. And I was astonished at how perfectly they came up. From that moment on photography was it for me. Which was reflected in my lack of attendance at other classes.

Let me ask you about a particular picture of yours that was one of the first I ever saw — a glowing red pick-up truck in a farm field. How did you get that luminous effect?

That originated as a slide, and I liked it enough to immediately have it made a dye transfer print. I had a wonderful printer in Chicago. That was one of the first groups of slides I sent him. He would send me back about four or five proofs. They were all superb. I would tell him over the phone: "They all look wonderful!"

What struck me about that picture is that it showed that just by intensifying the color of an ordinary thing, it could be totally transformed, really almost transfigured.

In reality that scene was that intense just in nature. The sunlight was that brilliant, late in the afternoon the sunlight had a brilliant orange cast. And when I saw the slide I thought, that's just the way it really looks.

The post-Impressionists used brilliant color to give ordinary things an almost hallucinatory quality. Do you favor dye transfer printing because it gives you an ability to separately intensify colors?

I didn't really try to do that ever. I try to transfer unmanipulated scenes, without heightening the color saturation.

Do you ever use digital cameras now?

No, I have some that have been sent to me by manufacturers to test out and I have just really toyed with them. For one thing they're not beautiful machines like a Leica. I've seen beautiful digital prints that other people have made, but I've not seen any reason to abandon film.

I know that for you a photograph is primarily a visual field, a set of aesthetic decisions, not a way of suggesting a story to the viewer. But inevitably when you look at a picture like the one of that old guy sitting on a bed with a gun, you wonder: "What's going on here? Who is this guy and how did Bill Eggleston get in the room with him?"

I can imagine that, but to me it was nothing special. He was the husband of a quite distant relative. We were having an amicable conversation. Many years before he had been a night watchman for this very small town in southern Mississippi. And he was just showing me the kind of pistol they carried around. I think a few minutes before that he had pulled up his shirt and was showing me several scars he had. We were great friends.

Entretien avec Richard Lacayo ayant eu lieu en octobre 2008, publié en ligne ici et .