I haven’t written about photography in a while and I think that’s because of the stage in my life and the encroachment (or more accurately, the replacement) of the SLR with the smart phone. There was the time in my life that I’d pack my Nikon SLR, lenses as well, when I traveled or felt like going on a local photographic sojourn. No doubt I used to take it more seriously, although I was never a professional like my father. I had my own darkroom some 40 years ago and did a lot of black and white photography, gravitating to idiosyncratic subjects, but always one eye on the prosaic, scenes we just take for granted in everyday life.
A New York Times article about a Stephen Shore exhibition at the MoMA reminds me of the kind of photography I liked as an amateur, never serious enough to fully give myself over to photography as an art. As years went by I did more of what everyone did, photographing the kids as they grew up, family occasions, trips that we took, allowing what ever existed of an artistic eye to mostly atrophy.
Now, I never go anywhere with my SLR and although I’ve invested in a digital camera that can practically replicate everything an SLR can do, even that rarely goes with me unless I want telephoto capability, usually only on trips. The smart phone has changed everything and now I find myself taking more sunrise and sunset and landscape and nature photography with it, sometimes mindlessly posting them on Twitter.
But I read about Stephen Shore’s career and wonder what could have been (Stephen Shore’s MoMA Survey Shows a Restless Reformer as a Master of Photography). I was particularly intrigued by the NYT’s observation that “he produced suites of photographs, shaped by a single principle, which pictured anodyne Americana in impassive repetition.” Yes, that could have been what I was aspiring to do but have long since abandoned.
In that article you can see his photograph “Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles, California, June 21, 1975.” It depicts a commonplace street scene in which Chevron and Texaco gas stations are conspicuous. Although unremarkable, it’s remarkable. The last time I toted my SLR was on a trip we took to the Southwest about ten years ago, and I took some photos of “anodyne Americana,” my favorite being a gas station along Route 66:
But there are others in the same region, and of other pieces of Americana captured on that trip such as a political rally advertised at a local diner…
The infinite stretch of Route 66 and freight trains running alongside….
Or the side of a garage in Arizona…
I wonder what could have been if photography was my vocation, but I had a publishing career and a family life to lead and now the rest is history. So now my iPhone photographs are usually scenes outside my home or in my neighborhood. These still makes me feel connected to my photographic roots (my father’s commercial photography business established by my great grandfather in 1866).
And here I’ll sneak in a personal shot, Thanksgiving buffet at our house showing the two cooks, our friend Sydelle and my wife Ann, taken, of course, with the iPhone.
Plus, my favorite sunset shot, taken with one of the early digital cameras, a Sony Mavica, at a Block Island dock perhaps twenty + years ago, three men silhouetted in the foreground…
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