For all his personal disorganization, he was able to handle his work with extraordinary care and methodical purpose: he roved the streets with a 35-mm. camera, “sketching” possible scenes in the least pictured vistas of the city. Then, later in the week, he would return and be ready to make his picture, waiting for the right light—the pregnant, rather than the decisive, moment—to take and keep a city corner that no one else might have thought worth preserving.
Almost every Shore photograph is organized around a bright panel or pole of red—a distinctively New York red, not a sunset or a tropical red but an emergency-call-box or fire-station or athletic-socks red.
Jerry Shore’s New York, and ours.
Issue of 2006-11-27
We see New York, and sometimes, as Henry James asked us to, we “do it”—explore and conquer it—but what we see when we see it is so far unlike what we experience when we’re doing it that the difference itself can become a subject for art. The city sneaks up on us in pictures, and we are startled to see what it looks like even when what it looks like is just us, doing what we really do. We respond to truthful depictions of New York with the same surprise that we feel when we hear a recording of our own voice.
This surprise is one of the subjects of the extraordinary, lost—or, actually, never found in the first place—American photographer Jerry Shore. Shore did New York, was done by it, and then became a kind of artist-martyr to the act of seeing it. In the last decade of his life, Shore, after twenty years as one of the leading short-form commercial directors of his time, fell down a well of alcohol and isolation. He died in 1994, at the age of fifty-nine, and left behind four thousand photographic prints, most of New York City streets, in Queens and Manhattan, in Turtle Bay and Chelsea and the old meatpacking district. Only one of them had ever been sold. The collector Daniel Wolf bought all of Shore’s work, in 1995, and has archived it, so that, for the first time, it is possible to see the range and intensity of what he accomplished, and discover an original New York eye.( Collapse )