Looking back, outside of the mundane gossip and remedial conversation, there were two things that I hated to hear most while in school – “Milan, why are you so nice all the time?”, and the lackluster attempt of a so-called compliment, “You’re really pretty for a black girl!”. Being asked why am I so nice all the time always guaranteed for a quick, sarcastic remark such as, “So would you rather me be an asshole?!”. Simply because, well, who doesn’t like nice people? As for the latter, the best I could conjure up was an awkward, “Thanks, I guess?”. For any young girl growing into her teens, being called pretty by a cute boy in school was like an invisible badge of honor, one that could instantly put a pep in her step for the rest of the day. However, when being complimented gets limited to just “for a black girl”, unfortunately, that badge of honor does not wear the same.
I never labeled myself as the “pretty” or “popular” girl in school. I always wore glasses, and nothing special stood out about me. It wasn’t until I was in my late teens, early 20’s, that I realized the standard, regurgitated, concept of beauty, was just that – Standard. After tons of self reflection, and learning more about my indegineous background, I realized just how exclusive I truly was. Of course, eventually growing into my hips and womanly figure helped with that, as well. From the shape of my eyes, to the coils of my hair, to the complexion of my skin – I am exclusive – Regardless of who may feel otherwise.
Gaining knowledge of self has changed my thought process completely, making it easy for me to be comfortable in the skin I was blessed with. Once timid, shy and self conscious, I now wake up with an everlasting pep in my step, radiating an abundance of self-love and confidence. I am beautiful as I am. I am fierce. I am strong. I am a luminous etheric being, manifested in the physical form. I am Milan.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR : Milan is currently an administrative healthcare professional, originally from New York, now residing in Philadelphia. Aspiring model and real estate broker. Free thinker. Humanitarian by nature. Spiritual revolutionary in the making. This is Milan’s first contribution to Tony Ward Studio.
Darkroom: Black and white processing and printing services.
This is the darkroom where Tony Ward spent countless days, months and years making thousands of gelatin silver archival prints for his well known body of black and white photographs exploring various subjects including; portraiture, fashion, nude and erotic photography of which he became world renowned.
The darkroom was built in 1985. This unique creative space is available for rent to the public at The Ward Studio on a per project basis. Photographers that rent the darkroom may keep processing chemicals for developing film and prints stored at the studio for ongoing darkroom sessions.
Price for darkroom rental:
We offer a four hour minimum at $175.00. Any time over the first four hours is charged at $50.00 per hour. Photographers are responsible for their own chemistry. Amber bottles are best for storage.
Price for darkroom consultation:
Professor Tony Ward is available for one on one consultations regarding darkroom process and technique at $200.00 per hour.
Location: 704 South 6th street Philadelphia, Pa. 19147
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Juneteenth: Long Time Coming (But, Is It Too Late?)
“By making Juneteenth a federal holiday, all Americans can feel the power of this day, and learn from our history, and celebrate progress, and grapple with the distance we’ve come but the distance we have to travel.” – President Joseph R. Biden signing The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act at The White House, June 17th, 2021 
At the June 17th, 2021 White House bill signing ceremony making Juneteenth  a federal holiday, President Joseph R. Biden and Vice-President Kamala D. Harris, as well as members of both houses of Congress were joined by an elegant elder dressed in white sitting in attendance upon the front row for this event.
Known as Grandmother of the Juneteenth Movement, Texas native Opal Lee  has been on a long quest to get the federal recognition for getting Juneteenth made a national holiday. As part of galvanizing a national campaign to get Juneteenth to become a national holiday, this passionate and persistent woman organized a walk from her home state of Texas to Washington, D.C. to ring the mighty bell of freedom on the events of over 150 years ago.
“I’m hoping that Juneteenth will not just be about festivals, but that it will be about uplifting each other.” – Opal Lee  educator and activist
Opal Lee’s focused mission on keeping the flame of the promise and premise of honoring Juneteenth’s meaning for all Americans came to a fruitful destination on her journey over these many years to be among the luminaries at the White House signing ceremony.
“To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we have to continue toward that promise because we’ve not gotten there yet. The Vice President and I and our entire administration and all of you in this room are committed to doing just that.” – President Joseph R. Biden signing The Juneteenth National Independence Day Act at The White House, June 17th, 2021
We can take in the events of celebrating Juneteenth from sea to shining sea and see it as a laudable moment of unity. And, yes, the banner of sisterhood, brotherhood, and human-hood flourishes beneath a blue sky and glistening sun.
President Biden’s words and actions are symbols of good faith in placing an olive branch out to his fellow Americans for unity. Yet, we live in the Divided Territories of Amnesia; where reality of the present and reckoning with the past are in a tug of war with the future.
Happy Juneteenth! Hallelujah!
A new national holiday has been placed onto the books and all is well and as it should be in America. Or, is it?
A piece of paper is a piece of paper, is a piece of paper. Be it the Emancipation Proclamation , the 1965 Voting Rights Act, or even the Constitution of The United States Of America. Inked signature upon finest parchment is meaningless without implementation or enforcement backing up the ideals and goals laid out in any of those documents.
On June 19th, 1865 when 2,000 Union troops entered Galveston Bay, Texas; the implementation of the words written in the Emancipation Proclamation by enforcement were the action that freed the slaves. A proclamation  by General Gordon Granger of the Union Army enforced General Order No. 3.
It wasn’t just a piece of paper that freed those human beings in Texas in 1865, but the physical presence of over 2,000 armed Union soldiers to make damn sure that insidious institution would crumble beneath the weight of their boots as they marched.
“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. has said time and time again that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice. For those of us who concur with that, should continue to beat the drum of justice and march our tired soles on that arc to help the bend of that arc to remain justified and righteous. Without vigilance of raising our voices and moving towards a more perfect union, that arc can become ragged and diminished beneath the dust of dismissal and derision.
Don’t stop! Won’t stop! March on! March strong!
“Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
Quilt of history has many patches woven into it; one thread is Juneteenth, another is Tulsa, and third is a throwback of today.
Some want to forget history, or even rewrite it as it is happening in the moment. Whether it be from a level of duplicitous amnesia; which a certain clique of persons play the game of pretending things are not as they seem. Or, an oblivious amnesia; which is like the ‘Lily Belle’ or ‘Beauregard’ kind. As to this pair, I’ll get back to explaining them a little bit further on in this article.
Another thread in that quilt of America’s history is the Tulsa Massacre, which took place one hundred years ago to this exact year. I didn’t learn about this bit of history from history books in school, but from exploring past history on my own.
In the early 1900’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the black community of Greenwood was known as ‘Black Wall Street’, due to the level of self sustainability by the citizens who owned businesses, lived and raised their families there.
One gem in the Greenwood district of Tulsa was the Stradford Hotel, owned by J.B. Stradford , who was the son of a Kentucky slave. Mr. Stradford, an Indiana University law graduate used his keen vision in real estate development with purchasing several land vacancies in Greenwood.
As well as Mr. Stradford’s namesake establishment were a plethora of other African-American attorneys, doctors, tailors, craftsmen, and entrepreneurs of varied professions who called that community their home.
May 30th until June 1st, 2021, the prosperity and serenity of Greenwood were set aflame and destroyed by rumors, resentment, racist rage, and insidious inhumanity which targeted the black citizens whose ‘American dream’ descended into a terror which seemed unending.
From the horror of 1921 to the present of 2021, only three souls have survived to speak witness to what they endured in testimony before a Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing in Congress on May 19th, 2021.
“I am seeking justice. “I am here asking my country to acknowledge what happened in Tulsa in 1921.” – Viola Fletcher, 107 year old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre  of May 1921
Newsmakers of many stripes can commiserate and commemorate in locations of racism’s touchstones around the United States of America such as Tulsa, Oklahoma, never seeming torespond with anything more than just powerful prose when the call for allowing survivors of the massacre of ‘Black Wall Street’ located in the Greenwood district to be made in some teensy way whole.
“We were laid refugees in our own country.” – Hughes Van Ellis, 100 year old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre  of May 1921, brother of Viola Fletcher, veteran of the United States Army
There are those who speak about a notion of uber-patriotism and how much they supposedly love this country more than any other person. They ramble on and on about their own figments of courageous intent. But, their chest thumping has such a hollow affect to it, when a man who served his country in an all-Black unit in the United States Army in defense of this country in World War II speaks on the reality of feeling to have to battle on two fronts when being a black man in America. It is an aspect which the black soldier has internally existed with from the seedlings of the American military to present. Now, I could take another avenue of getting into the segregationist history in the American military and that itself would lead me onto a long and lonesome highway all on its’ own.
“I have waited so long for justice.” – Lessie Beddingfield Randle, 106 year old survivor of Tulsa Massacre  of May 1921
Those who survived the Tulsa Massacre of 1921 deserve far more than just wonderful words spoken by thoughtful people in high positions; as I along with others begin to nod our heads and applaud in unison of cheering in a respectful response to each of them, “Yeah! Yeah! You give good speech!”
But, can any of you cut a check for the last three LIVING survivors of the Tulsa Massacre and place it in the palm of their hands before they are DEAD. Well, of course, after they are gone from this mortal earth, these same people in high positions can rely on this trio not being around anymore by saying, “Why bring up reparations now, when there are no survivors of the Tulsa Massacre?”
NO check! But, YES speech!
Justice too late can be justice denied, for what remains may be less than that which is implied. In this case of a newly minted holiday, it might be a day of acknowledgement that leads not very far ahead. But, a few steps beyond where we have been.
In this moment of reckoning with history, there should be some sort of blueprint for an accurate tallying of history.
“It seems that justice in America is always so slow, or not possible, for Black people. And we are made to feel crazy just for asking for things to be made right.” – Lessie Beddingfield Randle, 106 year old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre  of May 1921
Some can obscure the reality lived by their fellow Americans of a different hue of humanity by just closing their eyes, closing their ears and burying their conscience in the bone-yard of manufactured persecution.
Once Viola Fletcher, Hughes Van Ellis and Lessie Beddingfield Randle are no longer around, then maybe a fig leaf of gathering together a multi-year study on reparations for the descendants of those massacre victims might have an airing out. But, then again, when things are a long time coming, they usually don’t come along at all.
Sparkle of amnesia flares up.
With the hullabaloo that is coming from opponents of critical race theory, it seems to me how obvious their problem is truly with ONLY one of those words. If it was critical WAR theory, then they’d be cool with that.
In fact, every pre-schooler in America could be given their WAR cookies and milk right before naptime in class. Hmmm.
Okay, enough of my snarkiness about the fake outrage from people who are just whipping up hysteria about something they can’t even explain when talking about it. But, it makes me shake my head whenever I hear the conspiracy theorists who howl and moan that they are trying to save their children from the ‘horrors’ of learning about something outside of their own comfort zones.
Critical race theory is an academic discipline, which means unless you are a five or six year old going for your Master Degree, your underage self can’t even comprehend the breadth and depth of history that takes an analytical look at the social and structural elements of racism in the United States of America.
Being blunt, I think it might just be a touch of Shakespeare’s axiom of ‘doth protest too much’ is the reason people are acting like Critical Race Theory is beyond a reasonable instrument in showing the vast complexity of past and present events in this country.
This demonizing of the academic theory has even been drawn into the halls of Congress by Republicans during a military budget hearing before the House Armed Services Committee on June 23rd, 2021.
To see a frat-boy Congressman who is under investigation for under-age sex trafficking preen and denounce a twisting aspect of what he thinks Critical Race Theory means when questioning two men who have served this country is the height of bizarreness.
The only tour Rep. Matt Gaetz from Florida has served so far is one of a whole lotta doody (not duty) when he’s pretending to be this super-patriot saving America from the scourge of what he calls ‘the liberal left’.
As for his future, well maybe he’ll be serving another kind of duty in cleaning toilets with a toothbrush when he’s under the state’s lock and key.
Republicans are quick to do the warrior spiel and tout their love of country and freedom when that C-Span camera is rolling. But, the camera can also capture the eloquent clap-back from the most unlikely sources.
“So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? And I personally find it offensive  that we are accusing the United States military, general officers, commissioned and noncommissioned officers of being quote ‘woke,’ or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there.” – General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, United States of America
Seated at the table with General Milley was the first African-American serving as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who also responded to the thinly veiled besmirching of the military from Gaetz and other Republican members of the Armed Services Committee.
“I trust my leadership from top to bottom that they will give me fair and balanced and unvarnished  input” – Defense Secretary, Lloyd Austin
I wonder if Secretary Austin wasn’t so, hmm, how can I describe him…tall? Would that be the real reason why Gaetz was such a grouch to him? Maybe, it’s just a shade of cynicism I’m recognizing.
With egg on his face, Rep. Matt ‘Florida Man’  Gaetz had to sit there and take the answer that both men unapologetically gave him.
“So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn  the Constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out.” – General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, United States of America
Instead of Rep. Matt Gaetz being so inflamed over one type of theory, he should shut his trap and do some reading. For one, I suggest he read Carl von Clausewitz’ “On War”, which comprehensively analyzes the nature, strategy, theory , and socio-political phenomenon of the decision of war. Furthermore, anyone worth their salt of respecting history has read and absorbed the 4th century masterpiece  written by Sun Tzu, “The Art of War”. I seriously doubt he would do a deep dive into either of these works, for there aren’t any glossy pages for him to drool over in either of these books.
Cunning and conniving their way through the political bloodstream are the hoaxsters and hucksters who are pumping the big lie filled with venomous, repercussions that will reverberate for many a day and coming year in the future.
Now, the snake’s tongue drips with equating  the scholarly research of critical race theory to the cross-burning, hate-filled, terror of the Klu Klux Klan.
Just pump the lie like a bellow and toss in anything about race into the mix and boy, oh boy the backlash gets going full steam.
And, of course those who want to believe or want to hide from the truth will just continue to drink that narcotic cocktail of amnesia and anesthetic.
Is it compliance or is it just happenstance?
Duplicitous amnesia is the kind that is a putrid half and half. One part is being a well used instrument for self benefit with the second part of becoming pied pipers of leading lemmings, who crave direction; no matter how bat-crap crazy it is.
In some ways, those who are dredged in duplicity aren’t as pernicious as persons who are whistling with clueless abandon.
Oblivious amnesia comes from those who think history is just one of those things. You know, just happenstance that has been going on around them for all these years.
Say a polite and gentle howdy to ‘Lily Belle’ and ‘Beauregard’.
With the way things are in the current time, I the name for her could have be ‘Karen’, but, I decided to go old school (or should I say Old South) with ‘Lily Belle’. As for his name, well, ‘Beauregard’ just fits past, present and future.
It seems to me that every ‘Lily Belle’ and “Beauregard’ is under the consistent illusion that all is fine, bleached and right in this country. Of course, for them it is, as it always has been and remains. For them, no matter what happens, they’ll come out smelling like a rose. Maybe even a yellow rose of Texas.
For every law which expands, there are the subsequent actions in law and practice which are constrictive. For every action, there is reaction.
Past is present as present is past. As for what comes in the future, we hold that in our hearts and hands. If we truly want to honor that which is from years ago, we have to be honest. Or, should I say ‘critical’.
My history! Your history! American history is OUR history!
Republicans are going around flapping their gums in saying that the ‘Left’ are not talking enough about America progressing forward from the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the racist past is pitiful.
My retort to them is that progress is not blindness to the sometimes fouled nature and history of this country. Oh yes, we have come far from the past. Of course, that is true. But, the United States of America is not whole in the present moment.
“I fought for freedom abroad even though it was ripped away from me at home.” – Hughes Van Ellis, 100 year old survivor of the Tulsa Massacre of May 1921 and brother of Viola Fletcher
So, when a puissant politico who pays for his jollies via Venmo  spews his insurrectionist, conspiracy concocted bile over an academic theory he wouldn’t know if it bit him on his ‘Beauregard’ backside dares to lead with a glass jaw on the issue of racial truths in this country; he should be more concerned about having a good criminal lawyer on speed dial and checking how the color orange will look on him in the days to come.
But, oh no, I can’t stop yet and end just on critical race theory and how it’s being bastardized by those of a certain ideology to their clawing for power. As there is another thread which connects all the patches of the American quilt together – voting rights.
The story of America is on a constant continuum, as is the perception and reality of equality and justice.
One citizen’s free and fair election is another citizens’ submersion into a twisted quagmire of bamboo  fibers and table-spinning of ballots in an ass-backward carnival of a so called ‘audit’.
Taint of the big lie didn’t cease the moment a new hand took an oath. The repercussions of what was done before, during and after the election cycle of 2020 is one which will haunt this nation for longer than this author and readers of this article shall exist.
In the present, along with a flurry of bills  attempting to restrict voting rights across the country, there are two pieces of legislation to strengthen voting rights that under debate in the Congress. First bill  is the For The People Act, which is a comprehensive bill to pre-empt various state voting and election laws. Second bill  is The John Lewis Voting Rights act which focuses solely on restoring and reinforcing the 1965 Civil Rights Act.
The first of the two bills has hit a roadblock to a speedy passage to becoming a law, because of a single-focused reverence of an obsolete senatorial procedure. And, the thing about it is, is that the lines of ideology are not even what this hold-up is in getting those two laws passed in the United States Senate.
Some people are clinging to the filibuster as if it were handed down from the mountaintop and treated as if it were some religious artifact or orthodoxy. To love a technical procedure which isn’t even in the Constitution over a human right reflects on a politician’s arrogant affection for their elected moniker of the moment.
To those with the D after their name in the political class that have manifested the filibuster  as their lord and master, they better know that life is beyond the hallowed halls of the Congress and the stuffy backrooms of political contributors. Nobody and nothing happens in a vacuum. And, maybe just maybe when they come a’ callin’ to be re-elected those on the left might have amnesia of checking the box for them to stay in power.
One needs to clear their mind of that cobweb of contradiction and get a perspective in the fresh air of seeing what is going on around them in this country.
Just like Republicans, there are Democrats who are in the lane of ‘Lily Belle’ and ‘Beauregard’ who are the types of people who will always be fine; no matter if their constituents will be disenfranchised and diminished in the legal arena, as they too can preen for the spotlight with a smirk of similarity on their faces just like ‘Florida Man’.
These men and women must choose which do they respect more; a technical procedure which has an odious lineage behind it or the blood, sweat, tears, and triumphant stride of citizens. Affection for an institution should not have more of a standing than the events that are occurring simultaneously to undermine voting rights protections.
Yet, that distasteful brew of amnesia and anesthesia is churned again and again by the (once) Grand Old Party in need of proving their fidelity to a person no longer in the house of white. Yet, to me, sadly it seems because of that color’s classification and the perception all which it entails in the social order of political standing and power in this country, may be the last gasp of building an impenetrable wall of judicial and elected officials set in place as umpires of inequality based solely on a supremacist ideology.
“Talk of brotherhood and “tolerance” (are we merely to “tolerate” one another?) might once have had a cooling effect, but increasingly it grates on the nerves. It evokes contempt not because the values of brotherhood are wrong–they are more important than ever–but because it just does not correspond to the reality  we see around us. And such talk does nothing to eliminate the inequalities that breed resentment and deep discontent.” – Bayard Rustin, civil and human rights activist
In fact, some who stand in the way of moving forward try to numb us into silence over the words and actions they take. I find this as an anesthetic effect. You know, it becomes a kind of fuselage of tossing so much stuff at the American citizens that at some point those in positions of power cross their fingers and hope they’ll slide through unscathed from scrutiny.
Take for example something that should be a moment of unity in bringing us all together in recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
As the Juneteenth bill’s passage was on the verge of not getting unanimous consent in the United States Senate, one person who has been a hawker of the big lie and cradler of whacked out conspiracies finally gave his tepid blessing for it to be sent off for signing into federal law by President Biden.
He is Republican Ron Johnson, Senator from Wisconsin. His amnesiac act over the insurrection of January 6th 2021 being recounted as the mob madness being just an overblown media story by the left-wing seems not out of the ordinary for him. But, his anesthetic arrogance over being on hand for this year’s Juneteenth celebration  in Wisconsin, as if the people’s senses have dulled and their memories were wiped clean, truly takes the rotten cake of this right-wing Senator.
As I was doing the research for this article, one thing that I could not avoid was the thing about timing. Timing of history. Timing of action. Timing of reaction. Timing of injustice. Timing of recognition. Timing of justice. Timing of reckoning. History never stops, nor does the timing or vastness of the interconnections of the people of this country.
“We need to advocate for an accurate history.” – Opal Lee, Grandmother Of The Juneteenth Movement
Juneteenth 1865 (156 years ago)
Tulsa 1921 (100 years ago)
Emmett Till (65 years ago)
Medgar Evers (58 years ago)
Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman (57 years ago)
George Floyd (1 year ago)
Juneteenth is a moment to celebrate, commemorate and give honor to the determination of the long journey to national recognition. But, as the years will pass by, my hope is that it doesn’t become transformed from a history learning exercise into some sort of diluted, advertising gimmick a la “Get Your Juneteenth Mattress On Sale at Manny’s Furniture Hideaway!”
Happy Juneteenth! Remember it beyond a single day on a calendar.
“Juneteenth: Long Time Coming (But, Is It Too Late?)”- Footnotes
(1)White House Briefing Room (Juneteenth National Independence Act) –
In looking at the work of Jamel Shabazz, an aura of confidence and righteousness radiates out of his images. There is no doubt that each subject is aware, and focused, on the camera, and giving a show to the audience, with chests puffed and heads high. His work radiates a certain something, and is best explained by Fab 5 Freddy’s introduction to Shabazz’s book Back in the Days:“If among the many emotions you feel while viewing these photos, cool comes to mind, here’s why – back then, cool was all about having the right flavor and savoir faire. Such a style blended a certain brand of rebelliousness with a casual nonchalance…” (pg 4). This “cool”-ness is captured with grace, style, and a sense of excellence in all of his work.
Shabazz’s image “Partners”, taken in 1999, is a prime example of his ability to capture the suave nature of his subjects with pride. The two subjects of this image are a classic snapshot of time. The late 90’s aesthetic oozes from the color and framing of the two men, in the flexed muscles and unfazed eyes. “Payback is a bitch” stares you down as the gladiator man at the bottom of the frame looks like he could give a little wink if you looked hard enough. The warmth of their skin tones against the tiled walls feels like summer time, as the gaze of the man on the right pierces through the heat. The use of the flash creates a distinct outline of a shadow behind each man and produces a punchy contrast, forcing the eyes on his subjects, and the gaze of the subjects back to you.
According to his publisher’s book synopsis for Shabazz’s fourth book, Seconds of My Life (2007), he was “introduced to photography by his father, who kept a signed copy of Leonard Freed’s Black in White America on the family’s coffee table” at the age of nine, and from there on out, he felt a strong sense of obligation to capture and portray “his community and the people who gave it life” (Shabazz, 2007). This sense of obligation to community comes across quite beautifully in his images, especially in the ways his subjects are posed. In speaking from my very limited and novice experiences and perspective, I can see a mutual understanding between photographer and subject that produces respect, pride, and self assuredness in his images. Shabazz knows his subjects well enough for them to trust in his vision, and to know that he is capturing them the way they see themselves.
The personal and intimate work of Jamel Shabazz is inspiring to me and my desire to immortalize the beauty and confidence of my community and my friends. Despite there being limited academic literature on Shabazz’s work, I find the work speaks for itself. The merit is in the body language of his subjects, often in public settings, that appear staged but in an organic, comfortable manner. Overall, Shabazz’s prowess has fantastically captured the pride and joy of existing in community as a form of resistance and survival.
Fab 5 Freddy. Back in the Days, by Jamel Shabbaz, PowerHouse Book, 2001.
Shabazz, Jamel, and Lauri Lyons. Seconds of My Life. PowerHouse Books, 2007.
Stephen Shore’s Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California, August 13, 1979
Stephen Shore is an American photographer still living and working today. Shore’s oeuvre is characterized by his highly detailed photographs. They are color film shots, taken on an 8×10 view finding camera. Shore is unique for this type of work. Early on in his career in the 1960s, photography was not so established as a form of high art. His fellow photographers were eager to establish themselves as “fine art” photographers, and used black and white, and or 35 mm film to do so. Shore’s color and large-scale works set him apart and was his form of rebellion against those conventions. Shore was never formally trained, nor an assistant to an established photographer. Nevertheless, by the time he was 23 he had already been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The photograph that is in Haverford College’s collection, Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California, August 13, 1979 is a part of Shore’s series Uncommon Places 1973-81. This series is where Shore investigates the ambivalence of the American landscape. Because of the medium requirements of shooting with such a large camera, with a tripod and long exposure times, Shores photographs are deliberate, posed and complex.
Shore’s Merced River triumphs in its depiction of landscape, humans and their composition. If the sheer beauty of the landscape was not enough, his framing of it only heightens its intrigue; the curve of the river complements the mountains behind it. The smattering of people around the scene, all in their own world, show the human interaction with the landscape. Shore takes the photograph from a high vantage point, so the figures are small, and the enormity of the landscape takes precedent. What is most remarkable about this work, along with all of Shores work, is the fine detail of the print. With his process of using an 8×10 camera, he is able to sharply capture all of the detail present within the frame. Stephen Shore contributed to the history of photography by creating works of art that were unafraid, technically intricate and bold compositionally.
Dahó, Marta. Stephen Shore. First edition. New York: Aperture, 2014.