In preparation for this month looking at Shore’s ‘Uncommon Places’, I revisited the 2009 Steidl publication ‘New Topographics‘ (a great representation of the 1975 exhibition, or as much as I can imagine without having been there). Just after the director’s preface is a great little interview with two viewers at the exhibition; A man (Jack) and his wife or girlfriend (Chris).
Jack’s comments sort of some up my own feelings on the work featured in the exhibition, and in particular of Shore’s images, it’s also a lovely little interview with great characters itself and so I hope you enjoy it here:
CHRIS: I just don’t like this at all; [I prefer] people, pictures, something that tells a story. Route 66, big deal, it doesn’t mean anything.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think the photographer had any intent?
CHRIS: He must have, for a layout like this. He couldn’t have been doing this for his enjoyment, because they are very dull pictures in my opinion. Jack, what do you think?
JACK: They mean something to me because I’ve never seen them before. I think he’s trying to get at…I’m still working on it…
INTERVIEWER: Do you think these pictures really capture the feeling of the places?
JACK: They really do, very much so. At first they’re really stark nothing, but then you really look at it and it’s just about the way things are. This is interesting, it really is.
CHRIS: Look at this picture. I just…why? What is he trying to show?
JACK: You said there are no people here, but there are people, all over the place. Everywhere you look there’s people.
CHRIS: Okay, you look at this you can imagine somebody checking out of the hotel, but it’s gone, there’s nothing for you to identify with except, what, dirty sheets? I don’t like it. I’m sorry! I don’t care for that kind of…Are you a photography student? What kind do you prefer?
INTERVIEWER: Do you think there’s any difference between the [photographers] in the show and what they were doing? Do you like anyone better than the others?
CHRIS: I really can’t comment because we’ve only been in just this one area [Shore, Schott], looking at just these, so I can’t say as to what I prefer.
JACK: I found my truck. I can’t believe it, it’s my truck, right there.
INTERVIEWER: Robert Adams, got your truck.
JACK: Just interesting. You know I think there’s a lot of people, I really do, there’s people, it’s a way of life. It’s how it is. It’s interesting.
CHRIS: I don’t like them. They’re dull and flat. There’s no people, no involvement, nothing. Why do you like them?
JACK: Because I’ve been there. This is what people have done. [The pictures are saying] ‘This is it, kid—take it for its beauty and its ugliness.’
CHRIS: I don’t like to think that there are ugly streets in America…but when it’s shown to you, without beautification, maybe it tells you how much more we need here. What do you think, Jack?
JACK: Try not to, it hurts.
CHRIS: You’re the one who enjoyed them.
JACK: I enjoy everything.
Havn’t seen ‘Uncommon Places’ yet? Have a look…