Stephen Shore in Deutschland

“To be sure, that is also the expression of a particular vital consciousness.”

On the Reception of Stephen Shore’s Work in Germany 1972 - 1995

The typical historical account of the effect a body of photography exercises on its viewers unfolds from the perspective of an artistic zenith. For the work of North American photographer Stephen Shore, however, we can launch our retrospective with a precisely identifiable incident that marks the starting shot more in the spirit of a revival. “Suddenly, for one weekend, Münster was the epicenter of the latest developments in photographic history. While an exhibition of the work of American photographer Stephen Shore opened at the Westfälischer Kunstverein, the overwhelming show of Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Typologien (Typologies) was winding down in the rooms of the Landesmuseum opposite.” In a review that appeared in the Tageszeitung newspaper on February 3, 1995, critic Ulf Erdmann Ziegler indicated that the smooth transition between the two solo exhibitions was no coincidence but rather to some degree a symbol-laden passing of the torch. For Shore - “certainly ‘a name’ in the seventies,” according to the reviewer, had, unlike Bernd and Hilla Becher, increasingly fallen into oblivion on the international art and photography scene since the mid-1980s. This is why the Münster traveling exhibition, put together by Heinz Liesbrock, then director of the Westfälischer Kunstverein, did in fact signify a rediscovery and the beginning of an impressive comeback as art photographer that still colors Shore’s reputation in this country today.

The reviewer didn’t have to search long for reasons for this revival of interest. The curator of the show evidently saw “in Shore a model for that generation of German artists/photographers who forged careers as students of Bernd and Hilla Becher,” noted Erdmann Ziegler. “As if to palpably prove this connection, the Bechers came from Düsseldorf for the opening. As one of the five catalogue texts, Liesbrock included an interview with the great documentarists in which they confirm that they have also shown photos by Shore at the Academy.”[i]

Stephen Shore as the American inspiration for the Becher class! Ever since then, the renaissance of the New Color photographer has been inextricably bound up with this spectacular thesis. The lasting influence Shore’s color photographs had on the so-called “Becher class” at the Düsseldorf Art Academy is a rumor that has been spread equally by critics, art historians and the artists involved, and after the turn of the millennium it itself seems to have become a topos in the recent history of photography. Even Shore himself, who didn’t pay a personal visit to the Düsseldorf Art Academy until the mid-1990s, shared in this general belief. “It seems to me that the younger generation of artists, particularly in Germany, pursues a standpoint that is related to mine,” he said in a 2001 interview. “The work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, with whom I have long been friends, paved the way for this kind of ‘Straight Photography.’”[ii]

There is probably no other photographic oeuvre from the orbit of New Color Photography in the USA that has since the turn of millennium been treated in such detail in all its various stages of development as that of the New York photographer, who was born in 1947 in New York and quickly rose to fame as the wunderkind of photography.[iii] The early influence of Andy Warhol’s legendary Factory, which Shore began to document at the age of 17, formed fertile ground for a singular oeuvre that took shape between the conflicting demands of an uninhibited art avant-garde and a contemporary form of photography that had just begun to emancipate itself. In Shore’s work, documentary, conceptual, vernacular and color-specific aspects are united, all of which helped lay the groundwork for his extraordinarily early rise to fame. Shortly before his 24th birthday, he had his first solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. His work series Uncommon Places, parts of which were displayed in 1976 in a solo exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and which was then published in book form in 1982 by Aperture, distinguishes Shore, alongside William Eggleston, Joel Sternfeld and Joel Meyerowitz, as one of the leading pioneers of New Color Photography.[iv] This is attributable not least to the fact that the autonomous use of color, once dismissed as “vulgar” by Walker Evans, signalized a revolution within the nascent developments in art photography, which with a certain delay then spread to Europe and in particular to Germany. In the case of Stephen Shore, the narrowly restricted German photography scene, and especially the study class of Bernd Becher at the Düsseldorf Art Academy, provide ideal conditions for us to trace in detail the momentous impact of his work. 

photokina and Lichttropfen

The first European readers probably took notice of the young New York photographer as early as 1967, when Andy Warhol’s book Index was published, on which Stephen Shore worked with Paul Morrissey, Nico, Nat Finkelstein and Billy Name.[v] The next year, a few of his black-and-white photos from the Factory phase appeared as illustrations in the catalogue for the Warhol exhibition at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm.[vi] But a serial photo work by Shore did not find its way to European shores until autumn 1972 in the so-called Bilderschauen (Picture Shows) at the photokina in Cologne. Leo Fritz Gruber, who had been in charge of the cultural segment of the world’s biggest professional photography fair since 1951, had invited the Switzerland-based American Allan Porter to organize a group show of contemporary international photography. For Porter, whose editorial post at the magazine Camera in the 1970s and 80s made him a pivotal figure in the transatlantic mediation of young photographers, the trade fair offered an ideal forum to expand his own field of activity. Under the title “Sequences” he showed an extremely eclectic selection of black-and-white photographs that catered to the reawakened interest in serial compositions. Included in the show was art photography by Duane Michals, Ray K. Metzger, Floris M. Neusüss and Gerd Sander. Stephen Shore was represented by an eight-part b/w sequence of photos taken at the Institute of General Semantics in Connecticut in 1970.[vii] Camera published two images from this series in its October 1972 issue.[viii]

His real discovery by the German photography scene, however, was left to Rudolf Kicken. In 1973 the young Aachen gallery owner, who at the time was taking part in a photography workshop in Rochester with Nathan Lyons, contacted the Light Gallery in New York.[ix] Founded in the early 1970s, this photography gallery, whose director, Harold Jones, focused exclusively on 20th-century photography and preferably on contemporary trends, had rapidly become the prime meeting point for a young US photography avant-garde.[x] Paul Strand, Bea Nettles, Tod Papageorge, Joe Deal and Harry Callahan were among the photographers who exhibited there. In an anteroom, the gallery showed Stephen Shore’s series American Surfaces in 1972 in the form of a wall installation designed to be hung in three rows.[xi] For Rudolf Kicken, who had just founded the Galerie Lichttropfen in Aachen with Wilhelm Schürmann, offering Shore exclusive representation at his avant-garde gallery meant he would have the appealing opportunity to present the European debut of an American contemporary artist. After the two gallerists had already presented Alex Kayser and a group exhibition of the work of Andre Kertész, Paul Strand, Wynn Bullock and Harry Callahan in their rooms on Kockerellstrasse in 1974, they also showed a selection of Stephen Shore’s latest color photographs in late 1975, which he had taken using a large-format camera. [xii] Only two years later, the second gallery show followed, for obvious reasons. “Color was something marvelous at that time; we were excited about Walker Evans anyway, and the connection with Robert Frank was also there,” Rudolf Kicken remembers. “In the final analysis, Shore was for us a continuation of Frank’s Back Routes of America from the 1940s.”[xiii]

The One Road

Unlike in the USA, dealing in photography was to a large extent an exotic undertaking in West Germany at that time. Ann and Jürgen Wilde had opened a photo gallery in Cologne in 1972, and the same year Heinrich Riebesehl had established a non-commercial exhibition space in Hanover called Spectrum. However, as Thomas Weski once explained, starting in the mid-1970s this purely photographic infrastructure, which also included for example the Museum Folkwang in Essen, was still largely cut off from contemporary international currents on the art market. [xiv] Trends in, for example, Pop, Conceptual and Land Art, in which photography was being used as artistic tool, were still beyond reach. Bernd and Hilla Becher, whose photographic documentary work had by contrast already been acknowledged in the international art context at an early date, came into contact with Galerie Lichttropfen through Klaus Honnef. An occasion was provided by an exhibition of the work of German industrial photographer Werner Mantz, in whom the artist couple was interested.

That Shore’s sublime color photographs would also spark their interest once they saw them hanging in the gallery comes as no surprise. Hilla Becher, who frequently spent time in New York due to her son, had in fact already made Shore’s acquaintance in 1973. [xv] His dialogue with her would open up a new artistic perspective for Shore, who had just begun experimenting with a 4 x 5 inch camera. “In the early 1970s, Hilla and I had a conversation in New York City that clarified for me what my intentions were for my work. She suggested that I just photograph main streets across America. My reaction was that it wasn’t right for me. Thinking about her suggestion made me realize that what I was after was not a study of main streets (or gas stations, suburban houses, shopping centers, etc.), but the quintessential main street.”[xvi] Despite their divergent attitudes, a friendship quickly developed between the two, marked by mutual artistic esteem and shared exhibitions. In January 1975 for example, Stephen Shore was the only color photographer to take part with Bernd and Hilla Becher (as the only European photographers) in the important exhibition New Topographics. Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, which introduced a radically new concept of landscape into photography.[xvii] Among the artists represented in the show, which took place at George Eastman House in Rochester and was curated by William Jenkins, were Lewis Baltz, Frank Gohlke, Nicolas Nixon, John Schott and Henry Wessel. In subsequent years several additional group shows would once more bring together works by Shore and the Bechers.[xviii]

Bernd Becher as Mediator

The dialogue between the New Color photographers and the two German documentarists was not limited to exhibition participation, however. Bernd and Hilla Becher acquired several color prints by Shore from the Galerie Lichttropfen, including a groundbreaking work called Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles.[xix] After Bernd Becher became a professor at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf in 1976, he expanded his activities as mediator, recommending to the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, which had already served as forum for the Becher exhibition Anonyme Skulpturen. Formvergleiche industrieller Bauten (Anonymous Sculptures. Comparisons of Form of Industrial Buildings) in the first quarter of 1969, that they hold a solo show of Shore’s work. This exhibition was then realized in spring 1977 under the simple title Stephen Shore. Fotografien (Stephen Shore. Photographs). This was the American photographer’s first comprehensive show in Europe and comprised some 60 pictures from the holdings of the Aachen gallery, which had now changed its name to those of its owners, Kicken & Schürmann.[xx] The Düsseldorf presentation was supplemented by a few pieces recently acquired by Bernd and Hilla Becher, including the 1974 photograph MacDonald Avenue, Terrace Bay, Ontario. This rather unspectacular color photograph of a wooden house with a pitched roof was closely related in terms of its motif to the documentary works in the Bechers’ series Fachwerkhäuser des Siegener Industriegebietes (Half-Timbered Houses in the Industrial Area of Siegen).[xxi]

Although the Düsseldorf Kunsthalle had already shown 80 vintage prints by Walker Evans from the Museum of Modern Art in New York in a solo exhibition the year before, seemingly paving the way for the reception of the US American pictorial tradition in photography, the press response to the Shore show was quite reserved. In the Düsseldorfer Nachrichten newspaper, Helga Meister commented: “The color photographs ... capture cityscapes from a strictly distanced viewpoint, softened by the sunlight-infused colors.”[xxii] Under the headline “Amerika in aller Stille” (“America in All Quietness”), the Neue Ruhr Zeitung newspaper by contrast attested to a special atmospheric quality in the pictures. There was “hardly a trace of hecticness” to be found in them.[xxiii] Yvonne Friedrichs from the Rheinische Post found that the pictures manifested great formal expertise; the photographer had “an eye for rhythm, for the interplay of structures, colors and light, which gives his images that certain something that turns photographs into artworks.”[xxiv] Since the photo exhibition, presented in the graphic art gallery at the Kunsthalle, opened at the same time as three other shows, it attracted little attention in the midst of this “somewhat haphazardly put together potpourri.”[xxv]

Nevertheless, the show did leave its mark. Volker Döhne for example, an early student in the Becher class, visited the Kunsthalle on the advice of Bernd Becher and bought the slim catalogue. The catalogue was identical with an excerpt from the January 1977 issue of Camera magazine, which featured eight color photos and a questionnaire for Stephen Shore. Asked “which type of photography” he identified himself with, the 29-year-old American referred to Beaumont Newhall’s standard work History of Photography. The renowned historian of photography had added him as youngest artist to the canon in his popular reference guide.[xxvi] Shore then used this reference to immediately make a programmatic connection with the consolidating approach evidenced by his photographic working method:

In his chapter ‘Recent Trends’ Beaumont Newhall writes that there are four independent traditions in photography: straight photography (Weston), formalist (Moholy-Nagy), documentary (Cartier-Bresson), and equivalents (Stieglitz, Minor White). But these needn’t be viewed necessarily as independent traditions - the best photographs unite all of them. The tradition which these four interrelated aspects are part of is the tradition in which I am working.[xxvii]

In the self-assurance evidenced by this early association we can perhaps today still discern the core of Shore’s approach to picture-making.[xxviii] The interpenetration of diverse intellectual and visual traditions programmatically granted the coexistence of very disparate possibilities of reception, which in sum often proved able to open up access to the photographic image, or at times to more general pictorial issues and methods. In this connection the liberating focus of the Uncommon Places series displayed at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf in 1977 surely laid the intellectual groundwork for the students in the Becher class to then follow the cue of US color photography in their work.

documenta 1977

It’s hardly surprising to discover that Stephen Shore’s color photographs were first recognized in the art context in Germany at nearly the same time. Bernd and Hilla Becher were once again instrumental here. Directly after the end of the Düsseldorf exhibition the artist couple lent some of their Shore works to documenta 6, among them the La Brea picture and the photo El Paso Street, El Paso, Texas.[xxix] As part of the mammoth show of contemporary art directed by Manfred Schneckenburger, which opened in Kassel on June 24, 1977, and would become known to posterity by the catchword Media Documenta, Klaus Honnef and Evelyn Weiss had put together an extensive section on photography. The show aimed to present a retrospective of the medium and at the same time to highlight the development strategies underlying its technical, communicative and content-related aspects. Klaus Honnef, who had been exhibition director at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn since 1974 and who had established a photo-documentary exhibition tradition there at the prompting of Bernd Becher, played a pivotal role in the German photography scene in the latter half of the 1970s.[xxx] He classified Shore’s 10-part series in terms of its content under the heading Direkte Fotografie - Stadt und Architektur (Direct Photography - City and Architecture). At the same time, however, the curator and art critic turned his attention to the methodical procedure chosen by the New York photographer in order to add a decisive point to Newhall’s four categories of contemporary photography:

The four components, which are derived primarily from black-and-white photography, are joined in Stephen Shore’s case by the element of color, which he deploys very deliberately to emphasize the documentary, or the formalist, or the symbolic value of the image. His pictures are static and self-contained. Their documentary value - probably their most important aspect – lies in the recording of the contemporary American cityscape and rural settlements. These are not unusual views, but rather everyday sights. These link him with Walker Evans, who in a different era made this vernacular and seemingly insignificant environment arrestingly visible.[xxxi]

An Important Current Trend

In this consolidating formula, which proved able to convey the essence of photography in all its complexity as well as its transparency, we can perhaps recognize with hindsight the real reason why, in Germany in particular, Stephen Shore’s color photographs were able to succeed in diverse milieus. As a case in point, Allan Porter mounted another group exhibition for the “picture shows” at the photokina in Cologne just one year after documenta 6. This show was the first to allude to the catchword “New Color Photography” in its title.[xxxii] It was called New Colour Visionen. Die zweite Generation der Farbphotographen (New Colour Visions. The Second Generation of Colour Photographers) and it gathered together works by 16 American artists including, apart from Shore, William Christenberry, William Eggleston, Joel Meyerowitz, Neal Slavin and Joel Sternfeld. In the catalogue text the curator legitimated the autonomous use of color with the same arguments that only a few years before had triggered vehement controversies in the USA: “In fact the photographers almost seek out the harsh colours of such phenomena and emphasize their triviality by cramming these colours into a single picture. Yet this is an important current trend.“[xxxiii] Negative reactions to Porter’s apology were not forthcoming in Germany, however, even though the use of loud, screaming colors, now seemingly omnipresent in the photo-design field, in fashion and advertising photography and even at the photokina, was still taboo on the independent contemporary photography scene.[xxxiv] It was not least because New Color stood in direct opposition to the formalistic black-and-white photography of the Steinert school – which still dominated academic teaching in Germany at the time under the dictates of subjective photography – that this new branch also opened up some fresh alternatives. And the Germans could only attain an autonomous position once they faced up to the latest developments in American photography. [xxxv]

Additional sources recounting Shore’s reception in Germany attest to this grappling with the American model and the increased interest at what was happening overseas. In its September 1977 issue, which was dedicated to New York as theme, the Swiss monthly Du published a few big-city scenes by Shore under emphatically documentary premises.[xxxvi] The following year, the photographer couple Gabriele and Helmut Nothhelfer published in connection with a teaching post in Berlin a small study volume on the approach American photographers were currently taking to depicting reality, using the Farm Security Administration as example (Wirklichkeitsvermittlung am Beispiel der Farm Security Administration). They illustrated in words and images how motifs from documentary photographs by Walker Evans and Ben Shahn reappeared in the work of Stephen Shore, Joel Meyerowitz and Steve Szabo.[xxxvii] An anthology published that same year by Hugo Schöttle once again linked a few of Shore’s works with contemporary positions.[xxxviii] Also important was the show on Amerikanische Landschaftsphotographie (American Landscape Photography) art historian Klaus-Jürgen Sembach put together for the Neue Sammlung in Munich in 1978. Here for the first time, a line of tradition in American photography was presented in Germany that traced the trajectory from early landscape photos in the 19th century (by artists such as Carleton E. Watkins, Timothy H. O’Sullivan and William Henry Jackson) and classic positions in black-and-white photography (Ansel Adams, Edward Weston) to the contemporary New Color works. William Christenberry, William Eggleston, Joe Maloney and Stephen Shore were featured among the latter. In his catalogue text Sembach insistently attributed to the younger artists a certain calculated impression of fleetingness. “This trait of transitoriness is to all appearances typical of a certain part of American landscape photography and is strengthened when the suggestion of movement is added to it, in, for instance, Stephen Shore, where roads often go straight across the picture or rush towards a distant horizon. To be sure, that is also the expression of a particular vital consciousness.”[xxxix]

Thanks to the concerted efforts of Rudolf Kicken and Wilhelm Schürmann, Shore’s street scenes began to be exhibited nationwide, including in the few institutions dedicated to  contemporary trends in photography. In 1978 his color images were displayed at Bernd Lange-Irschl’s photography gallery in Munich, and then at the P.P.S. Galerie in Hamburg, run by fashion photographer and collector F.C. Gundlach.[xl] There followed that same year a workshop on photography conducted by Michael Schmidt at the VHS Kreuzberg adult education center in West Berlin, with a subsequent group exhibition that juxtaposed Shore’s street scenes with works by Frank Gohlke, Joe Deal, Lewis Baltz and Carl Toth.[xli] While Stephen Shore had a solo show at the same venue in 1980, some of his works were also on view in the group exhibition on American Color Photography at Schürmann and Kicken’s Cologne gallery.[xlii] This was followed at the end of the year by another solo show, at the Spectrum Photogalerie in Hanover.[xliii] Finally, Klaus Honnef borrowed Shore’s color photo Baseball Player Graig Nettles, Fort Lauderdale, 1978, from Galerie Kicken for the large survey show Lichtbildnisse. Das Porträt in der Fotografie (Photographs. The Portrait in Photography), which was held in 1982 at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum.[xliv]

Viewers in Germany thus had the opportunity to obtain an impression of the unparalleled quality of the work of the young American based on original prints – more exposure than enjoyed by any other contemporary photographer. Yet Stephen Shore, unable to travel to Europe during those years, was left largely unaffected by these developments. From so far away, his rising star in Europe had the sole effect of leaving him a bit bewildered. “Last year - he is not sure why - almost half of Shore’s sales were to German collectors,” wrote Tony Hiss in a 1979 essay for American Photographer magazine. “He is one of the most popular American photographers in Germany.”[xlv]

Excursus on the Mavericks: Schürmann. Regenberg. Brohm

With this background in mind, we can trace the direct influence of Stephen Shore on the genesis of works by several photographers in Germany who, due to unusual biographies, displayed an openness to transatlantic pictorial concepts. As gallerist, lecturer and author, writing for example for Camera magazine, Wilhelm Schürmann (1946), for example, was well versed in the heterogeneous currents in contemporary photography. In the black-and-white photographs he made up to the mid-1980s a pronounced eclectic impulse can be felt, accompanied by the attempt to almost playfully appropriate the various contemporary pictorial strategies being deployed in art photography. The strict axial facade views of some of the house motifs the Aachen-based artist discovered just over the border in Belgium still strongly echo the Becher style, while surrealistic tableaux recall works by Steinert student Andre Gelpke. For the exhibition In Deutschland. Aspekte gegenwärtiger Dokumentarfotografie (In Germany. Aspects of Contemporary Documentary Photography), which Schürmann curated in conjunction with Klaus Honnef for the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn in summer 1979, he contributed documentary street scenes of the provisional German capital. Analogies with Shore’s pictorial compositions are evident - in particular with El Paso Street, El Paso, Texas, July 5, 1975. For Schürmann, rendering a German motif by means of an artistic method that Shore would later call “framing” was presumably not much more than a finger exercise.[xlvi]

A special route was taken by contrast by Cologne-based photo-artist Max Regenberg (1951), who did training as a commercial photographer and then emigrated to Canada in 1977, where he was confronted with the gaudy imagery of billboard culture. When he returned to Germany two years later he embarked on a long-term project documenting posters and billboards in the public space – one that is still ongoing today. Due to their exclusive semantic focus on the consumer world of the street, Regenberg’s works display a special proximity to the motifs in the series American Surfaces and Uncommon Places. In 1983 Regenberg began to use an 8 x 10 inch large-format camera. He was thus one of the first photographers in Germany to deliberately employ color in his freelance documentary work. His photograph Amazonas # 1982, L.B. System Köln shows a billboard for Camel cigarettes tellingly placed in front of a half-timbered facade. We can speculate here on whether this might be one of the earliest examples bringing together the influences of Shore and the Bechers. There is no doubt that it is to be taken as an homage to both artistic stances.

Joachim Brohm (1955) is often referred to as the ‘missing link’ between the European and American pictorial traditions in photography. After already experimenting with works in color during his studies in Essen, a Fulbright Grant in 1983 gave him the opportunity to spend several years in the US state of Ohio. With astute calculation, Brohm chose his motifs there based on “the visual vocabulary of early American colour photography… Extending this artistic investigation of the everyday and seemingly banal, reflections in shop windows, neon advertisements and empty streets.”[xlvii] His photographs, taken with a medium-format camera, already attest to the attempt to breathe new life into what had by then become clichéd street subjects of the New Color movement. Everyday scenes of the “American way of life,” which in their perspective and composition almost quoted images by Shore and Sternfeld, were unveiled in virtually iconic fashion in most of his works through the effects of either diffuse or glaring daylight.[xlviii] Pictorial strategies of adaptation competed in Brohm’s Ohio series with a struggle to mark out an independent European position.

Painting and Misunderstanding

To what extent the works of Stephen Shore also left traces on the artistic development of those who studied under Bernd Becher, who taught art photography at the Art Academy in Düsseldorf from 1976 to 1996, can be discussed based on individual cases. We must premise these remarks by pointing out that, for Bernd and Hilla Becher, artistic appreciation of Shore’s work formed the basis for his inclusion in their teaching within the academy canon. Bernd Becher once summarized the reasons for this in retrospect in an interview. “He [Stephen Shore] continued the tradition which had begun in America with photorealism, although the photorealists were based on Walker Evans. But these were painters whose paintings were not right. The pictorial was all right, but not the color application or the painterly. By contrast, with photographers like Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld everything went together - the content as well as the artistic signature and the technical quality.”[xlix] In the eyes of the documentarist couple, Shore’s synthetic approach thus united virtually ideally all the advantages of the media-specific superiority of photography versus those of contemporary painting that peddled the imperative of realism. In particular, the recourse to the pictorial documentary style of Walker Evans, whose work the Bechers had been introduced to by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt in 1969, marked an autonomous line of tradition within documentary photography.[l] The alleged severity attributed to the size of Shore’s color prints was however the result of a misunderstanding. In the last years of his life, Bernd Becher stressed that, for his color photographs, Shore had exhibited only contact prints sized 8 x 10 inches made from negatives.[li] But the American artist had also already exhibited moderate enlargements sized 12 x 15 inches at the solo exhibition mounted for him in 1976 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[lii]

For the small flock of students who were the first to gather around Bernd Becher at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 1976, black-and-white was nevertheless still de rigueur for documentary photography, which had developed in Germany along the lines of New Objectivity in the German photographic tradition. Especially within the frame of reference based on the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch, Karl Blossfeldt and August Sander, the aim was to achieve “in a certain sense the purism that governed ... precision in thinking, in technology and in life.”[liii] In these teachings we can still find today one of the formulas for success that led to the international breakthrough of the Becher class on the art market of the 1990s. The fact that the use of color was out of the question in those early days of the class, as Thomas Ruff, who joined the Becher class in 1978, once emphasized, didn’t stop the individual artist from experimenting with increasingly advanced color photography techniques. It was apparently simply too tempting to apply this option, which the Becher students were of course constantly confronted with in their dealings with their fellow students in the painting classes, to photography as well, as a central element for shaping the picture. Volker Döhne for example, after his visit to the Shore exhibition in Düsseldorf, began using color ektachrome film in order to make realistic street views of his home region. In terms of motif as well, his photographs display clear echoes of the work of the American artist. Thomas Ruff in turn became acquainted with the possibilities offered by color photography in 1979 through assignments he carried out for his artist colleagues and then began to employ it for the series of interiors he had begun. “Through my work for artist friends I became more and more proficient at exposing large-format color slides, using only the existing light. I then applied this technique to my interiors and continued to work with color. This must have been about when I saw the New Color Photography from the USA for the first time, such as the work of Stephen Shore and Joel Sternfeld.”[liv] The students in the photo class were occasionally invited to the Bechers’ home in Düsselsdorf-Kaiserswerth for personal meetings, the professor once recalled, where they would have seen Shore’s original prints hanging on the walls of the former paper mill. “We had acquired a small series in color by Stephen Shore - bought or exchanged - and the photographs hung here, for all our visitors to see. That had a certain influence.” [lv]

In Germany

In mid-summer 1979, Klaus Honnef and Wilhelm Schürmann opened their jointly curated exhibition In Deutschland. Aspekte gegenwärtiger Dokumentarfotografie at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum in Bonn. The group show, which originally was to have been called Schauplatz Germany (Location Germany), united 13 artists working in documentary photography from all over the country, among them Heinrich Riebesehl, Michael Schmidt and Martin Manz. On the instigation of Bernd Becher, Klaus Honnef also included four young Academy students: Candida Höfer, Axel Hütte, Tata Ronkholz and Thomas Struth. In the spirit of the “author photography” he advocated, Honnef tried in the exhibition “to develop the new version of the documentary concept in photography from the fact that every variety of single-frame photography must, so to speak, necessarily yield an ‘aesthetic’ result whose formal framework is in a sense imposed on reality and commands it according to its own ‘laws.’ For this reason I want to demonstrate that a certain photographer’s authorship is not evident from a single image, but only becomes apparent from a sequence of pictures.”[lvi]

With his call for a serial approach as indispensable aspect for a cogent viewpoint on reality in freelance photography, the curator created the theoretical framework for the kind of artistic documentary approach that Bernd and Hilla Becher had already been practicing consistently for decades. This new attitude was reflected in the work of the Bechers’ students, who wanted to employ the medium of photography primarily as an instrument for artistic reflection, in the words of Tata Ronkholz, who legitimated her method as follows:

Decisive for my work is the daily encounter with my environment, which I artistically sublimate through my photography. The camera is for me an anonymous aid in this context, with which I can precisely record what appears to me as artistic necessity. Formal considerations don’t interest me, and I’m not seeking a beautiful motif, either. The motif is conveyed to me by the motivation I have to make a certain form of statement.[lvii]

With a picture series of kiosks and refreshment stands she showed the same growing interest in the West German consumer and everyday world as Candida Höfer, who with an 80-part slide series on the subject of Türken in Deutschland (Turks in Germany) contributed the only color photographs to the group show. Both photographers thus expressed an increasing engagement with vernacular themes, as had already being addressed for years in Pop Art painting and was pre-formulated in exemplary fashion in contemporary photography by Shore in the early 1970s with his series American Surfaces. Axel Hütte in turn referred in his early interior views to “architectural settings showing everyday spatial situations, for example hallways and underground garages.”[lviii] Thomas Struth, finally, showed for the first time in Germany a series of street scenes made with a 13 x 18 plate camera. In terms of motif and composition, his images also showed distinct overlaps with Shore’s color photography, although the series was squeezed into a much tighter formal corset in tribute to the teachings of Bernd and Hilla Becher. This had the effect, however, of opening up a broad discursive scope for interpretation, for example with respect to issues of spatial perspective and urban development.[lix] “I’m impressed by photographs without a personal signature,” Struth categorically indicated in the catalogue.[lx] Already one year earlier, the Becher student had received a grant to work in New York. He documented the streets of Manhattan, exhibiting his works at P.S.1.

An open attitude toward the recent American pictorial traditions is likewise reflected in the work of Wendelin Bottländer, who was the first student from Essen’s Folkwang School to switch from the photo class taught by Otto Steinert, who died in 1978, to Bernd Becher’s class at the Düsseldorf Academy. His application folder, B224, consisted of a systematic documentation of 51 gas stations that at the time could be found lining a highway that crossed the Ruhr Valley from north to south. While the series still bears the marks of the Steinert school, the concept behind it follows a famous US role model, namely Ed Ruscha’s photobook Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations from 1967. For Bottländer, who had been familiar with Stephen Shore’s work since 1977, the American landscape, shaped as it was by the proliferation of the automobile, would form a suitable foil for original pictorial solutions in his subsequent works.

Gursky’s Bible / Uncommon versus Unconscious Places

At the beginning of the 1980s, several new publications on the US photobook market served to ensure that the Becher class would now be addressing in even more depth the advent of The New Color Photography. This is the name the prominent critic and curator Sally Eauclaire chose for a group exhibition at the International Center of Photography in New York in 1981. The accompanying catalogue, published by Cross River Press in a large edition, was a 287-page compendium of heterogeneous images by Stephen Shore, William Eggleston and 16 additional US color photographers.[lxi] Together with the two follow-up volumes New Color/New Work and American Independents, both published in 1984 by Abbeville Press, Eauclaire’s anthology provided a comprehensive pool of images, perusing which European photographers could for the first time obtain an overview of the current artists of the New Color movement. “There was a whole bunch of American photographers who worked with precision and professionalism. The view camera is actually a great American tradition,” commented Hilla Becher later on these contemporary trends. Although the artist couple would continue to spurn color in their own work, Bernd Becher also found, in reference to his own teaching: “It was obvious that color had to come ... The students were basically well informed.”[lxii]

Andreas Gursky, who came to the Art Academy in Düsseldorf in 1981, would later call Eauclaire’s first compendium “my Bible.”[lxiii] His early work drew chiefly on individual compositional ideas and motifs that could be found therein. “Gursky’s early works continued to draw sustenance from their shots of anonymous new towns, shopping malls, lively street crossings, and everyday catastrophes,” commented Martin Hentschel. [lxiv] For example, while still studying, Gursky created a color street scene in southern Europe that shows a repoussoir figure standing in front of a subway entrance. The placement of the figure and the composition echo those in El Paso Street, El Paso Texas, which Stephen Shore made in July 1975. At the end of the 1980s – for example in the 1989 work Düsseldorf, Flugzeug (Düsseldorf, Aeroplane) – the direct influence of Shore’s imagery can still be felt in Andreas Gursky’s work.[lxv]

In 1982 New York’s Aperture publishing house produced the photobook Uncommon Places, in which Shore summarized his long years of work with the large-format camera in 49 color plates. As art critic Aaron Schuman later concluded, Shore managed with this publication to bring large-format color photography into the arena of the pictorial arts, while simultaneously launching his own media-specific line of tradition:

It established a number of subjective and stylistic links to the longstanding tradition of large-format documentary photography. In the same way that Shore drew inspiration from the work of his predecessors - the attentive formalism and rich detail of Eugène Atget, the straight-forward manner and fondness for the American vernacular of Walker Evans - many of today’s photographers use Uncommon Places as a crucial source of their own imagery. For example, Thomas Struth’s first book was entitled Unconscious Places, as an homage to Shore’s masterpiece. And as often as one sees a Shore-like palette in the photographs of Thomas Struth, one can also discern the underlying influence of Atget and Evans, their perspectives having been filtered through the color work of Shore.”[lxvi]

It might prove revealing to speculate on the reasons why Thomas Struth’s successful Unconscious Places project, which was displayed at four European museums between 1987 and 1988, did not prompt any mention of the influence of Stephen Shore, despite the obvious echo in the title. The catalogue essays and reviews did pay tribute to the European traditions exemplified by the photography of Eugene Atget, Albert Renger-Patzsch and Bernd and Hilla Becher, but focused mostly on issues in the visual arts in their efforts to place the series of street scenes in a pictorial context.[lxvii] “Later, for reasons pertaining to marketing strategy, members of the so-called ‘Becher-Schule’ (Becher School) would for a long time heedfully avoid such attempts at categorising them in the history of photography,” Thomas Weski recently surmised. [lxviii] Whether the students of the 1980s more likely deliberately tried to classify themselves according to art-historical lines of development must remain a conjecture. With hindsight, the change in perspective in any case illustrates a decisive caesura in the recategorization of the photographic image. “It would be wrong to assume that these disciples are following directly in the path set out by their mentor,” concluded Enno Kaufhold in reviewing the developments. “Not only is there a generation’s difference in age (all these students were born during the 1950s), there has also been a change of paradigm in their work, from pure photography to a self-conscious form of work which, sloughing off the rules of traditional photography, aims unmistakably at achieving the status of art.”[lxix]

Color Developing Machine

“We liked Stephen Shore from the very start, especially in the field of color photography,” Hilla Becher recently recalled in an interview. “We bought his book Uncommon Places immediately after it came out. His basic attitude was simply brilliant. Bernd constantly waved his work under the students’ noses; he virtually bombarded them with it.”[lxx] With this in mind, it is hardly surprising that a special color developing machine was procured for the Becher class in 1983. The students could now make their own prints and no longer needed to rely on expensive color labs.[lxxi] Andi Brenner, for example, took advantage of the new technical possibilities to make vertical-format color portraits of male athletes echoing August Sander’s epoch-making work Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time). Brenner cropped his models in American style, having them pose in three-quarters portraits in front of neon-colored flowered and ornamental wallpapers in order to intensify the effect of the colored surfaces even further. His fellow student Martin Rosswog, who remains committed to a rigidly documentary approach even today, made his way to color photography with some delay, via the New Color publications. Some of the images in his long-term study on Ländliche Innenräume in Europa (Rural Interiors in Europe), executed around 1990, are reminiscent with their nested compositions of Shore predecessors, such as Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, Los Angeles from 1975. Simone Nieweg, who at the beginning of her studies photographed Düsseldorf cityscapes in black-and-white, which with their extremely sober pictorial aesthetic are oriented on Michael Schmidt’s working methods, also operated in the late 1980s with a large-format camera in order to make color photographs of shop interiors.[lxxii] Kris Scholz for his part referred back to various motif adaptations in the Uncommon Places series in individual images, exploring deserted streets and cityscapes, mostly in Europe. Finally, Claus Goedicke, who a few semesters before had taken courses in sociology, devoted his attention to the consumer world of Western brand-name articles. He was one of the first Becher students to work with the technological possibilities of the photo studio, investigating the essence of products of mass culture and thereby walking the thin line between photo-design and object photography in the traditional genre of the still life. The aspect of color was for him more than just a means of expression.

Looking back, the 1980s represented a phase of increasing de-ideologization for the students in the Becher class. New pictorial options within art photography, for which Shore and New Color Photography had paved the way at the start of the decade, were adapted in multifaceted ways by the Academy students. Their message was clear: the vernacular, the banal and the marginal had finally earned the honor of being featured in photography, thanks to the advent of color. The trove of New Color imagery, and in particular Shore’s pictures from the Uncommon Places series, provided a proven motif reservoir for this purpose. Nevertheless, their influence and usefulness as reference points faded more and more as they were replaced by an artistic ennoblement that set in with the international triumph of the Becher school on the international art market. The trench warfare between painting and photography continued to rage within contemporary art, but photography required less and less a media-specific legitimation. “Today German photography has reached a new point of independence,” wrote Thomas Weski at the end of the decade in a special edition of the US photo magazine Aperture that was dedicated to contemporary German photography. “With the reunification of the country, photography - along with much else - will undoubtedly change.”[lxxiii]

Without a Guilty Conscience – The 1990s

In the mid-1990s Bernd Becher explained in an interview the mindset that had moved him to come to terms with the New Color photographers. “What interests me in Shore’s photography is precisely the fact that one can show the American world, everyday urban reality, without having a bad conscience. While here in Germany after the war, there was a reluctance to include certain aspects of the recent past in the picture - Nazi buildings, for example, or those typical housing scheme homes with pointed gables that come from a quite crooked ideology.”[lxxiv]

With German reunification, the ugly inheritance of “crooked ideology” suddenly took center stage under completely different premises, and with it the question of national identity, undeniably relevant for an artistically-minded documentary photographer. For a whole series of photographers who studied with Bernd Becher at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in the 1990s, an enhanced interest in themes involving what was previously the taboo concept of homeland can be discerned in retrospect. Serving as springboard here was a consistently (auto)biographical perspective, which was then explored on the conceptual and aesthetic formal levels in the photographic image, drawing in particular on the images of longing to be found in US landscape photography. The more recent legacy of the imagery of Stephen Shore and New Color Photography thus took on renewed pertinence among the third generation of the Becher class. For it was only in a reconciliation with transatlantic pictorial traditions that the students found a way to proceed synthetically “without a guilty conscience” toward an autonomous stance.

For Claudia Fährenkemper, for example, who had already learned photography with Arno Jansen in Cologne before taking up studies in Düsseldorf, coming to terms with the methodology of New Color offered an artistic point of departure. On three extended trips around 1990 she visited the landmarks of the American Midwest most frequented by tourists in order to create colorful landscape panoramas in the tradition of Ansel Adams and younger American artists. During her subsequent studies with Bernd Becher, she succeeded immediately following reunification in conjoining the sublime landscapes of the West with her teacher’s strictly documentary approach in a series on Fördergeräte im Braunkohletagebau (Conveyor Machinery in Brown Coal Strip Mines).[lxxv] Her documentation deliberately united pictures taken in both West and East Germany.

Laurenz Berges had likewise already come into contact with New Color imagery before taking up studies at the Düsseldorf Art Academy. In New York he worked as assistant to acclaimed photographer Evelyn Hofer, who had been working with color for decades. Hofer, who came from Marburg, encouraged Berges to photograph his hometown of Cloppenburg upon his return to Germany. The color series he made in 1992 reflects the unrequited longing he must have felt upon returning to Germany and, despite motival references to Stephen Shore, failing to find the mental expansiveness of the West in his place of birth. The light remains sallow, the streets deserted, the horizons somehow very narrow.

Domesticity and Discipline

A much more conciliatory result was achieved by Elger Esser, who joined the Becher class in 1992. In the series Zülpicher Börde he documented at the beginning of his studies half-timbered houses on the rural periphery in West Germany. They formed a range of motifs with which Esser, although he had grown up in Rome, had been familiar since childhood. On the one hand, the Zülpicher Börde series quoted Becher’s early images of Fachwerkhäuser des Siegener Industriegebietes (Half-Timbered Houses in the Industrial Area of Siegen), but on the other the individual motifs acquired their own special brand of nuanced presentness through the technique of color transfer. At the same time, the mostly makeshift cladding of the old building facades, enveloped in slate and corrugated metal, overplastering and tile, told of the manifold attempts to make domestic life as comfortable as the turbulence of recent German history allowed. Conceived as a book, the photo project was paired with a text by the writer Manfred Esser, Elger’s father, who, tongue-in-cheek, referred to the historical mental “shock... of care, decoration, do-it-yourself, domesticity, discipline, plastic, front-yard gardening, indicated infrastructure, security, street layout and cadaster tracing, real estate, the fruitful and fearful flat territory of the lowlands on the left side of the lower Rhine, their Eifel foothills, which the Zülpicher Börde in particular and its villages” could call their own.[lxxvi] The German countryside apparently had everything to reveal, but nothing more to be ashamed of.

The color photographs of Stefan Schneider, who came to the Becher class in 1987, exhibit more of a big-city orientation. Starting in 1992, Schneider set out with a large-format camera to document buildings and architectural ensembles in postwar Düsseldorf that he at first encountered with hostility. Jörg Sasse called Schneider’s attention to the New Color publications of the 1980s at an early date. Schneider was interested less in the use of color and the compositional solutions he saw there than in the artistic pictorial strategies. In the case of Stephen Shore, what fascinated him especially was a dictate that the American had already made explicit in his day: the photographer’s inspiration should no longer be readable in the individual images.

Wit and Tragedy

As testament to a physical counter-movement, we can cite a group of works by Boris Becker, who joined the Becher class in the mid-1980s. After Becker had over a period of six years put together a pictorial documentation of German bunkers in a systematic and arduous process thoroughly in keeping with Becher’s teachings, he began to seek a new orientation in the mid-1990s.[lxxvii] He then used an extended journey he made with his wife through the US Southwest in 1994 as an artistic intermezzo during which he captured in passing with his 35 mm camera, and with great relish, all those locations he was long since familiar with from the pictures of Stephen Shore and the other protagonists of New Color. His mimicry-like color photographs of motels, gas stations, cars and shop windows function as a kind of emancipatory move freeing him from the rigid doctrines of his Academy master. After returning from the United States, he dedicated his energies to constructive issues in photography.

Likewise evincing a certain emancipatory impulse is the final exam work by Matthias Koch, who had studied photography with Heinrich Riebesehl in Hanover before coming to Bernd Becher in 1990. During his studies in Düsseldorf, Koch playfully experimented with a wide variety of work series on subjects including volleyball players, interiors and double portraits. Since his Academy teacher always demanded that students investigate a single theme complex in depth over a longer period of time, Koch deliberately chose for his thesis a topic that Bernd Becher knew well – commercial and industrial areas – in order to simultaneously analyze a formal aspect of the photographic image. Without exception he selected for his photographs of industrial wastelands a considerably elevated viewpoint, as Stephen Shore had done in the 1970s in some of his color pictures.[lxxviii] Matthias Koch has remained true to this choice of perspective in his most recent work as well, which looks at Orte deutscher Geschichte (Places in German History). He even purchased a fire engine with ladder expressly for this purpose.

Bernhard Fuchs, finally, who joined the Becher class in 1994, launched in parallel with his portrait photos a study on cars, which he preferred to photograph in rural areas. He was not interested by any means in merely showcasing parked automobiles, but rather in the inadvertent theatrical aspect of the vehicles. “The cars in the landscape had an impact to me, similar to the impact of actors on a stage, and since then I began to collect their wit and their tragedy.”[lxxix] With clever calculation, the depiction of the ironic fates of these four-wheeled individuals in the photographs of Bernhard Fuchs undermined the high degree of cultural encoding still expressed by the automobile in the 1970s and 80s in the color photographs by American artists.

Safetyville

Due to the immense success the first generation of his students enjoyed on the international art market, starting in the mid-1980s Bernd Becher received with increasing frequency portfolios from hopefuls trying to obtain a place in the photo class, including foreign students. Among them was Miles Coolidge from the USA, who spent two years in the Becher class starting in 1992. Upon returning to the USA he completed the works group Safetyville in 1996, a 21-part pictorial documentation on a model city that had been established in Sacramento, California, to teach young people and children about traffic safety. Built on a 1:3 scale, it depicted an ideal US city, with a “wide, almost encyclopedic variety of examples of common building types and street features represented in this theme park of the everyday.”[lxxx] In this series Coolidge provided a virtuoso impression of a latently bizarre artificial world by drawing in his composition and choice of motifs on the pictorial tradition of Uncommon Places. The familiar was replaced here by a surreal effect, further enhanced by the blank black windows of the facades in this Potemkin village.

Lorenzo Sanguedolce was another guest student from the USA to gain admission to the class of Bernd Becher. He was also the first student there to have already profited previously from direct contact with Stephen Shore, who had been teaching at prestigious Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, since 1982. The photographs Sanguedolce took in the early days of his studies show frontal views of American rowhouses in Hudson that he fashioned in the style of Becher at the prompting of his teacher. During his guest year in the Becher class in 1995/96, he then documented piles of rusty cables and metal sheets at dumps in 8 x 10 inch color photos. Once more, a student’s versatile working method reflected the effort to bring the rigidly conceptual and serial approach taught by the Düsseldorf documentarists into harmony with the possibilities of New Color.

With the intention of addressing the various currents in contemporary photography beyond Becher’s teachings, his students took the initiative at the beginning of the 1990s to invite several protagonists from the German photography scene to hold guest lectures at the Academy, among them Michael Schmidt, Klaus Honnef, Hans-Peter Feldmann and Ute Eskildsen. And then in 1995, the year when Bernd Becher officially retired from teaching, Stephen Shore finally visited the Düsseldorf Art Academy for the first time. At the invitation of Bernd Becher he held a talk for the photo class, viewed some portfolios and debated with the students. At the latest on that day, the pioneer of New Color Photography presumably became aware that a rediscovery of his photographic work in Germany was no longer necessary. At least not in the Academy class taught by Bernd Becher.

© Christoph Schaden 

 

[i] Ulf Erdmann Ziegler, “Prä-MTV: Stephen Shore,” in: Die Tageszeitung, February 3, 1995, p. 17.

[ii] Anonymous, “Faszinierende Blicke auf das anonyme Amerika. Interview mit Stephen Shore,” Rheinische Post, April 14, 2001. “The revival of interest in Shore’s early work began... with an exhibition entitled ‘Stephen Shore: Photographs, 1973 – 1993’ that toured Germany,” is for example what Edgar Allan Beem wrote in a 2004 essay. Edgar Allan Beem, “A Distanced Delight. The World is Falling in Love with Stephen Shore All Over Again, Photo District News, 7, 2004, p. 70. Also see, more recently, Stefan Gronert, The Düsseldorf School of Photography, New York 2010, p. 22.

[iii] See the monographs published in recent years, e.g. Stephen Shore, Uncommon Places. The Complete Works, New York 2004; Shore, American Surfaces, London 2005; Stephen Shore, Christy Lange, Michael Fried, Joel Sternfeld, New York/London 2007; Shore, The Nature of Photographs. A Primer, London 2007; Shore, A Road Trip Journal, London 2008.

[iv] Kevin Moore, Starburst. Color Photography in America 1970 – 1980, Ostfildern 2010.

[v] On the marginal contribution of Stephen Shore, who is listed only as assistant, to the production of the book, see Andrew Roth, The Book of 101 Books. Seminal Photographic Books of the Twentieth Century, New York 2001, p. 188.

[vi] Andy Warhol, edited by Andy Warhol, Kasper König, Pontus Hulten and Olle Granath, exh. cat. Moderna Museet Stockholm, February 10 – March 17, 1968, Stockholm 1968.

[vii] On this work see the detailed account by Heinz Liesbrock, “That you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. Stephen Shores Bildkonzept,” in: Stephen Shore. Fotografien 1973 bis 1993, exh. cat. Westfälischer Kunstverein Münster, Munich 1995, p. 9f. On the exhibition “Sequences” see Ulrich Pohlmann, Kultur, Technik und Kommerz. Die photokina-Bilderschauen 1950 – 1980, exh. cat. Historisches Archiv der Stadt Köln, September 27 – November 11, 1990, Cologne 1990, p. 46.

[viii] Camera, 10, 1972, p. 19.

[ix] Rudolf Kicken in an interview with the author in September 2010 in Berlin.

[x] On the gallery’s exhibition program, see the detailed account in Light, New York 1981, p. 7ff.

[xi] Stephen Shore in an interview with Lynne Tillman, in: Shore 2004 [see note 3], p. 173f. Up to 1978 the Light Gallery held a solo exhibition of the work of the controversial young star every year.

[xii] Meisterwerke der Photographie. Eine persönliche Auswahl. Galerie Rudolf Kicken, 6, Cologne 1981, p. 60.

[xiii] See note 9.

[xiv] Thomas Weski, “Too old to rock’n’roll: too young to die. Eine subjektive Betrachtung deutscher Fotografie in den letzten beiden Dekaden,” in: Joachim Brohm, Kray, Leipzig and Oberhausen 1995, p. 106.

[xv] “I was a friend of Hilla Becher’s since the early ¢70s. She was spending a lot of time in New York - her son was going to school in New York. I guess we met in 1973. The Bechers were collecting my work and I was - and still am - a tremendous fan of their work. I wasn’t aware of their students till much later. So I would say that I wasn’t aware of the influence that show in Düsseldorf may have had on their students. Bernd didn’t travel as much and I didn’t meet him really until the ¢90s, but Hilla and I have known each other for a long time.” Stephen Shore in an interview with Jennifer Thatcher, n.d., see: http://www.kulturflash.net/archive/71/priview.html (As of: 1 September 2009).

[xvi] Susanne Lange, “A Conversation with Stephen Shore,” in: Bernd und Hilla Becher. Festschrift. Erasmuspreis 2002, Munich 2002, p. 50.

[xvii] For a more detailed account see Britt Salvesen, “New Topographics,” in: New Topographics. Göttingen 2009, pp. 11-67.

[xviii] See for example the exhibitions: 23 Photographers. 23 Directions, exh. cat. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool 1978; Weston J. Naef, Counterparts. Form and Emotion in Photographs, exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 1982.

[xix] The prints are currently on loan to the Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur in Cologne. I would like to thank that collection’s director, Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, for providing this information and allowing me to view them.

[xx] “Die farbigen Fotografien von Stephen Shore kommen auf Empfehlung von Bernd Becher in die Kunsthalle.” Helga Meister, “Colville war längst überfällig. Kunsthalle eröffnet mit vier Ausstellungen,” in: Düsseldorfer Nachrichten, April 20, 1977, p. 13; Stadtarchiv Düsseldorf, IV 33058 Stephen Shore 1977, file note by Mr. Borrmann, December 29, 1976 (carbon copy).

[xxi] Ibid., loan agreement, n.d.

[xxii] Meister 1977 [see note 20], p. 13.

[xxiii] Anonymous, “Amerika in aller Stille,” Neue Ruhr Zeitung, April 26, 1977.

[xxiv] Yvonne Friedrichs, “Wirklichkeit, gefroren. Alex Colville und Stephen Shore in der Kunsthalle,” Rheinische Post, April 21, 1977.

[xxv] In addition to the Shore show, the exhibition series also included a show on the Canadian photorealist Alex Colville, a historical retrospective on the German painter Paul Goesch (1885 – 1940), and a documentation of large astronomical devices from India, Mexico and Peru.

[xxvi] Beaumont Newhall, 5th Edition, New York 1982, p. 297.

[xxvii] Camera, 1, 1977, p. 23.

[xxviii] Shore once more underlined the topicality of his approach in a conversation with the author on April 30, 2009, in Tivoli, New York.

[xxix] Documenta Archive Kassel, documenta VI, folder 107, loan slips A-D, loan slip no. 1297 (Bellocq, Ernest J.). Attached list of photographs loaned to the documenta by Schürmann & Kicken, May 25, 1977, sheet 2. The list of loan slips includes seven Shore photographs, but ten are cited in the catalogue.

[xxx] Christoph Schaden, “Denken wird nicht überflüssig, sondern notwendig. Anmerkungen zur epochalen Photoausstellung ‘In Deutschland. Aspekte gegenwärtiger Dokumentarfotografie’ (1979),” in: Frame 3. Jahrbuch der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Photographie (DGPh), Göttingen 2010, p. 182f.

[xxxi] Documenta 6. Fotografie Film Video, exh. cat., June 24 – October 2, 1977, Kassel l977, p. 75. Honnef expanded on his analysis in a supplement to the trade journal Kunstforum that was dedicated to the anniversary “150 Years of Photography,” by addressing an additional formal aspect: “Shore has a penchant for clear pictorial construction with a marked emphasis on vertical and horizontal lines.” Kunstforum, 22, 1977, p. 153.

[xxxii] This was a traveling exhibition, which had already been shown at the Rencontres d’Arles under the title “Color Photography.” Nadine Olonetzky, Ein Amerikaner in Luzern. Allan Porter und Camera – eine Biografie, Lucerne 2007, p. 75.

[xxxiii] Die Welt der Photographie, exh. cat. photokina, Cologne 1978, p. 141.

[xxxiv] See Klaus Honnef, “Wilhelm war nicht amüsiert darüber. Ein Gespräch über die Ausstellung ‘In Deutschland’ anlässlich seines 70. Geburtstages,” in: Frame 2010 [see note 30], p. 192ff.

[xxxv] For a fundamental treatment of this theme, see Peter Galassi, “Gursky’s World,” in: Andreas Gursky, exh. cat. Museum of Modern Art New York, March 4 – May 15, 2001, New York 2001, pp. 9-43.

[xxxvi] Du. Europäische Kunstzeitschrift, 7, 1977, pp. 42-45. Other photographers featured in the issue included Duane Michals, André Kertész, Larry Fink and Bruce Davidson.

[xxxvii] Gabriele and Helmut Nothhelfer, Wirklichkeitsvermittlung am Beispiel der Farm Security Administration, Berlin 1978, pp. 60-65.

[xxxviii] Hugo Schöttle (ed.), Fotokunst und Fotodesign international. Dumont foto 1, Cologne 1978, n.p., illus. 120 and 121.

[xxxix] Klaus-Jürgen Sembach, “Annäherung an Amerika,” in: Amerikanische Landschaftsphotographie 1860 – 1978, exh. cat., Neuen Sammlung, Munich 1978, p. 10.

[xl] Stephen Shore, Photographs, exh. cat., John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota (Florida) 1981, p. 16.

[xli] Werkstatt für Photographie der VHS Kreuzberg, exh. cat., Berlin 1983, p. 106.

[xlii] Ibid. The Berlin exhibition ran from March 3 to April 18, 1980. Featured in the Cologne show were artists including Christenberry, Dow, Eggleston, Epstein, Gibson, Groover, Jenschel, Kramer, Larson, Maloney, McPherson, Meyerowitz, Pfahl, Schrager, Shore and Slavin. Meisterwerke der Photographie. Eine persönliche Auswahl, Galerie Rudolf Kicken, 6, Cologne 1981, p. 61.

[xliii] This show ran from December 10, 1980 to January 12, 1981. Ulrike Schneider, “Die Ausstellungstätigkeit der Spectrum Photogalerie, 1972 – 1991. Ein Rückblick,” in: Spectrum Photogalerie 1972 – 1991, Hanover 1995, pp. 19 and 32f.

[xliv] Klaus Honnef (ed.), Lichtbildnisse. Das Portrait in der Fotografie, exh. cat. Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, Cologne 1982, p. 622.

[xlv] Tony Hiss, “The Framing of Stephen Shore,” in: American Photographer, 2, 1979, p. 28.

[xlvi] Shore 2007 [see note 3], p. 62.

[xlvii] Thomas Weski, “Interlude. Joachim Brohm’s ‘Ohio Photographs,’” in: Joachim Brohm, Ohio, Göttingen 2009, p. 15.

[xlviii] On the specific use of light by Shore see in more detail Liesbrock 1995 [see note 7], p. 9.

[xlix] “The Birth of the Photographic View from the Spirit of History. Bernd and Hilla Becher in conversation with Heinz-Norbert Jocks,” in: Kunstforum, 171, 2004, pp. 159-175; quoted in: Susanne Lange, Bernd and Hilla Becher. Life and Work, Cambridge/London 2006, p. 217.

[l] Susanne Lange, “Sol LeWitt - A Short Interview,” in: Lange 2002, [see note 16], p. 59.

[li] On the continued history of this misunderstanding see Liesbrock 1995 [see note 7], p. 12; Weski 1995 [see note 14], p. 24; Weski 2009 [see note 47], p. 14.

[lii] The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York, CUR 1150, Checklist. Photographs by Stephen Shore. October 8, 1976  – January 2, 1977, n.d., two sheets. See Michael Fried, “Conversation with Stephen Shore,” in: Shore 2007 [see note 3], p. 27; see also the earlier statement by Stephen Shore in the catalogue Amerikanische Landschaftsphotographie 1868 – 1978, 1978 [see note 39], p. 18.

[liii] Armin Zweite, “Perspektivische Objektivität,” in: Lange 2002 [see note 16], p. 71.

[liv] Susanne Lange, “Im Gespräch mit Thomas Ruff,” in: Lange 2002 [see note 16], p. 106.

[lv] Ulf Erdmann Ziegler, “The Bechers’ Industrial Lexicon. A wide-ranging interview with influential German photographers Bernd und Hilla Becher,” in: Art in America, 7, 2002, p. 141.

[lvi] Letter from Klaus Honnef to Tata Ronkholz, March 1, 1979, Tata Ronkholz Estate, Cologne, unlisted. I would like to thank Anne Ganteführer-Trier, Cologne, for kindly providing me with this document.

[lvii] Tata Ronkholz, hand-written sheet, n.d., unlisted, document from the Tata Ronkholz estate, Van Ham Kunstauktionen estate administrators, Cologne. My thanks to Anne Ganteführer-Trier, Cologne, for this research.

[lviii] In Deutschland. Aspekte gegenwärtiger Dokumentarfotografie, exh. cat. Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn, June 23 – July 29, 1979, edited by Klaus Honnef and Wilhelm Schürmann, Cologne 1979, p. 114.

[lix] See the essays by Stefan Gronert and Rupert Pfab in the beautiful catalogue Thomas Struth, Straßen. Fotografien 1976 bis 1995, exh. cat. Kunstmuseum Bonn, July 12 – September 24, 1995, Cologne 1995.

[lx] Ibid., p. 89.

[lxi] This anthology brought together works by the artists Michael Bishop, Harry Callahan, William Christenberry, Langdon Clay, Mark Cohen, John Divola, William Eggleston, Mitch Epstein, Emmet Gowin, Jan Groover, David Hockney, Les Krim, Helen Levitt, Kenneth McGowan, Joel Meyerowitz, John Pfahl, Stephen Shore, Sandy Skoglund, Eve Sonneman, Joel Sternfeld, Boyd Webb and others.

[lxii] Erdmann Ziegler 2002 [see note 55], p. 141.

[lxiii] “I think instead that there is a general language of pictures.” Interview with Andreas Gursky, in: Eikon, 21/22, 1997, p. 21.

[lxiv] Martin Hentschel, “The Totality of the World, Viewed in its Component Forms. Andreas Gursky’s Photographs 1980 – 2008, in Hentschel (ed.): Andreas Gursky, Werke/Works 80 – 08, Ostfildern 2008, p. 26.

[lxv] “In Essen I studied with Otto Steinert, a proponent of subjective photography like Ralph Gibson. Then came the Bechers in Düsseldorf with their series of winding towers and water towers. They introduced us to color photography, to Stephen Shore, William Eggleston; later I was also strongly influenced by Jeff Wall. But at some point a switch went off in my mind and I no longer absorbed anything but instead started to digest what I already had stored.” “Gut, teuer, Gursky, Interview mit Andreas Gursky,” in: Wirtschaftsblatt, October 9, 2009.

[lxvi] Aaron Schuman, “An Autobiography of Seeing,” in: Modern Painters, Spring 2004, p. 78.

[lxvii] See the essays by Ulrich Loock and Ingo Hartmann in Thomas Struth, Unbewußte Orte, exh. cat. Kunsthalle Bern, October 3 – November 15, 1987, Cologne 1987.

[lxviii] Weski 2009 [see note 47], p. 11. On the reception of the series Unconscious Places see for example Christoph Blase, “Fotos ohne Leben - ganz ohne Menschen. Über die ‘Unbewußten Orte’ des Thomas Struth,” in: Arktis, 2, 1988, pp. 22-25.

In 2003 Thomas Struth was still distancing himself from Shore’s color photographs. “In Stephen Shore I’m simply missing any drama. I find his pictures too dispassionate. I simply miss ... some enthusiasm. They look to me very much as if seen with the mind only, very referential. But there are some wonderful works by Shore, no question.” Annette Ende, Thomas Struth - Stadt- und Straßenbilder. Architektur und öffentlicher Raum in der Fotografie der Gegenwartskunst, dissertation, Marburg 2008, p. 295 (Interview on June 12, 2003).

[lxix] Enno Kaufhold, “The Mask of Opticality,” in: Aperture, 123, Spring 1991, p. 60f.

[lxx] Thomas Honickel, “Der Becher-Effekt. Interview mit Hilla Becher,” in: Photonews, 4/2010, p. 8.

[lxxi] Matthias Winzen (ed.), Thomas Ruff. Fotografien 1979 - heute. Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne 2004, p. 254.

[lxxii] 68 Glückwünsche: Michael Schmidt zum 60. Geburtstag, Hanover 2005, p. 49.

[lxxiii] Thomas Weski, “Point of View: A Photo Map of Germany,” in: Aperture, 123, Spring 1991, p. 89.

[lxxiv] “His pictures have the look of a first encounter.” Hilla and Bernd Becher in an interview with Heinz Liesbrock, in: Liesbrock, Shore 1995 [see note 7], p. 29.

[lxxv] Claudia Fährenkemper, Fördergeräte im Braunkohletagebau, exh. cat. Kreismuseum Peine, August 9 – 30, 2009, Peine 1993.

[lxxvi] “Manfred Esser, -heim, -dorf, -hof, -ich,” in: Elger Esser, Zülpicher Börde, unpublished manuscript, n.d., n.p. I would like to thank Elger Esser for providing me with this text.

[lxxvii] “Blickpunkte, Blickfelder und Modulationen. Ein Gespräch zwischen Boris Becker, Gabriele Conrath-Scholl und Barbara Hofmann-Johnson,” in: Boris Becker, Photographien 1984 – 2009, Cologne 2009, p. 23ff.

[lxxviii] See for example the photographs California 177, Desert Center from December 8, 1976 and Fort Lauderdale, Florida from March 15, 1978.

[lxxix] Bernhard Fuchs, Autos. Fotografien, London 2006, n.p.

[lxxx] Miles Coolidge, Safetyville 1996, unpublished project description.


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