There's a two-part exploration and comparison of the works of Stephen Shore and Andreas Gursky (and others) at Artinfo (part 1, part 2).
But if Shore and Gursky share a fascination in the deadpan, in other regards their work varies considerably. Shore’s style evolved out of a found photograph aesthetic, and the deliberate artlessness of certain images comes attached to an ironic smile.
The deadpan comes out of a straight, or "objective," approach to photography; it minimizes the role of the photographer and asserts that the camera simply captures the world as it is. The theatrical, on the other hand, sees the photographer as a much more active creator. His tools include staged sets, subjects who participate in the making of the image, and all the tricks of darkroom and Photoshop manipulation.
You might say that theatrical photography stands in relation to the deadpan as Abstract Expressionist painting stands to Minimalism: it can be extroverted, loud, exaggerated, and performative. It proudly flaunts its artifice. And unlike the deadpan, which purports to document the world, it is beholden only to the photographer’s imagination.
Jeff Wall, the subject of a recent retrospective at MoMA, was an early proponent of this style. His images are staged, so that photography, in his hands, becomes an expedient means to create fiction. His photos look like film stills (and, in this case, a famous painting from art history, too).
But his work is subtle and quiet; whereas other practitioners of theatricality would move toward