In 1993 world renowned photographer Stephen Shore travelled to Luzzara, a comune in the province of Reggio Emilia, Italy. Here Shore photographed the town’s people, streets and squares, just as another American master, Paul Strand had done forty years earlier, when he produced the seminal book Un Paese with the Italian screenwriter of The Bicycle Thieves Cesare Zavattini.
Stanley/Barker has revisited Shore’s series with an exquisitely produced limited edition publication of Luzzara, which includes a number never before seen photographs.
Speaking of his purpose Shore said, "There was no way I could approach Luzzara as though I was not familiar with Strand's work. At the same time, even though I was going to Luzzara exactly forty years after Strand, I was not interested in producing a re-photographic survey. In a certain way, Strand's work does not need simple updating, because the kinds of people and farms and landscapes he photographed still exist in very much the same form today. But, they exist side by side with the modern world. A key feature of Italian life, at least to my New World eyes, is the presence of the traditional within the modern. My aim, then, was to produce a companion volume to Un Paese; to produce a group of pictures, which to the limit of the subjectivity of my vision, supplement Strand's work."
In 1977, Stephen Shore travelled across New York state, Pennsylvania, and eastern Ohio – an area in the midst of industrial decline that would eventually be known as the Rust Belt. Shore met steelworkers who had been thrown out of work by plant closures and photographed their suddenly fragile world: deserted factories, lonely bars, dwindling high streets, and lovingly decorated homes. Across these images, a prosperous middle America is seen teetering on the precipice of disastrous decline. Hope and despair alike lurk restlessly behind the surfaces of shop fronts, domestic interiors, and the fraught expressions of those who confront Shore’s 4x5” view camera. Originally commissioned as an extended photographic report for Fortune Magazine in the vein of Walker Evans, Shore’s multifaceted investigation has only gained political salience in the intervening years. Shore’s subjects – including workers, union leaders, and family members – had voted for Jimmy Carter the year preceding his visit; now he found them disillusioned with the new president, fated to leave behind the Democratic party and become the ‘Reagan Democrats’. Through unfailingly engrossing images by one of the world’s acknowledged masters, Steel Town provides an immersive portrait of a time and place whose significance to our own is ever more urgent.
The signed edition includes an extra image plate signed by the artist and glued into the inside back cover.
Transparencies: Small Camera Works 1971-1979 offers an alternative account of one of the most fabled episodes in photographic history: the cross-country journeys that produced Stephen Shore’s luminous new vision of the American landscape, Uncommon Places. Along with his large-format camera, Shore also brought a 35mm Leica on his travels. The images made with it, on luminous colour slide film, are intimate, spontaneous and personal, while retaining Shore’s studied formal sensitivity. In these entirely unseen photographs, a parallel iteration of an iconic vision emerges like a piece of music played in a new key.
The vocabulary is familiar: highways and homes, phone boxes, fast food and sun-strewn parking lots. But the alternative format unmistakably re-envisions these subjects through distinct experiments with composition, attitude, and colour. Transparencies uncovers both a detail-oriented survey of the American landscape of the 1970s and a rigorous, imaginative exercise in form by an undisputed modern master.
Stephen Shore has signed a printed plate of a unique image not included in the book and which has not been published or shown before, except as part of a reproduction of one of his journal pages in A Road Trip Journal. Shot in July 1973, the photograph represents that particular moment in time when he was transitioning from 35mm transparency film to large format film, after he had started shooting 4x5 for the first time but before he switched to 8x10. Unlike the rest of the images in Transparencies, this photograph was shot on 35mm film. The signed, printed plate has been tipped-in to the inside back cover of the book by hand and shrink-wrapped for secure shipping.