Looking Back

Larry Fink

September 6, 2018

©Stephen Shore, New York, New York, July 23, 2013. Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

We asked Larry Fink to tell us about a picture that means something to him, and why. Larry Fink: Primal Empathy opens at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum October 19, and Larry Fink: The Boxing Photographs is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through January 1, 2019.

Squeezing through all of the structural density of this Stephen Shore image, a revelation ascends. We hear it through the silence or see it through the rumble of feet. His internal monologue would probably resemble something like “what the f” or “oh my.” It is a remarkable moment of vulnerability; the young man has been upended from his simple pursuit, on the way to wherever, which will forever remain unknown to us. 

He has been locked within an instantaneous question, caught in the act. But there is no act, nothing to show. No high-five, no tragic despair, just a moment of confrontation with the unexpected. Is he a victim of the lens and the aggressions of a photographer? Not at all. For Shore, as a photographer, feels the man deeply, and is as surprised as the man by the occurrence. Dr. Shore (my academic colleague for decades), rather than avoid this emotive assimilation, has codified this mutual minor distress into a deeply crafted image, where, if you look carefully, you will find an angel. 

Shore is, of course, known for his melancholic, romantic, possibly ironic pictures of a certain love affair with an America that once was and still may be. He is known for his deeply constructed spaces and their coloristic hues, ever harmonious. To our relief, insofar as much of color photography can be brazen, insensitive to palette and balance, Shore is our natural anecdote to other practitioners’ jazzy critical photographic one-liners. Flush with vulgar color, empty of soul … but let me not get off track. 

For me, this picture is unique within Shore’s experiential vocabulary and makes him into a person who is less impenetrable than is often perceived. It broadens our view of his deeper humanity and allows us to feel what it means to be inside the wind-stream of psychic incredulity. 

Uncommon places indeed.