Shore famously began his artistic career when at the age of fourteen he sold three of his prints, abetted by Edward Steichen, to the Museum of Modern Art, New York. At the age of seventeen, he met Andy Warhol and began to move amid the circles of The Factory, from 1965 to 1967. There he used a hand-held camera to photograph, in black-and-white, spontaneous and intimate situations during the productions and performances of artists such as Edie Sedgwick and The Velvet Underground. Exposure to Warhol’s working methods, decision-making process, and his use of serial imagery opened his eyes to a broader aesthetic thinking.
In 1971, Shore became the first living photographer to present his works in a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. On the basis of his involvement with conceptual art, he began in 1972 to use photography as a tool for the systematic investigation of sites, and he undertook several journeys around North America. The traveling aspect of the road trip played an essential role for Shore and in the series American Surfaces (1972–73) and Uncommon Places (1973–82), he documented places, people and architecture which he encountered during his journeys. Through his use of color photography, he became, together with William Eggleston, one of the first artists to detach this procedure from applied photography and to introduce it into the visual arts. Shore subsequently shot his color pictures with a 35mm Rolleiflex and concentrated on subjects such as rest stops, motels, and gas stations, typical street scenes, un-heroic portraits, as well as simple details of modern life. By precisely controlling the coloration in his pictures, he combined the style of documentary photography with a personal, subjective viewpoint. By means of color, he also made reference to media images from advertising and television, thereby combining the aesthetic of popular culture with objective photography. The later series Uncommon Places taken with a large format camera allowed Shore to move away from the snapshot and to make more deliberate, formal and complex images—a different kind of seeing.
In 1973, Shore met Hilla Becher in New York, and they developed an artistic friendship that, despite the contrast in their perspectives, was influential for both of them. Shore’s use of color film and large-format camera had a formative influence on a subsequent generation of artists such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, and Candida Höfer, all of whom became familiar with his work in the photography class of Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
In the 1980s, Shore turned his attention to landscapes that he found in untouched environments in Texas, Montana and Scotland. Here he focused increasingly on the effects of light and color that bring out the details and textures of the landscape. Shore’s key position as a pioneer of photography endures to this day. He has served as the Director of the Photography Program at Bard College since 1982 and continues to make significant contributions to contemporary photography, including recent projects in Ukraine and Israel, and not least his restless experimentation with new technologies and formats, from the digital (his recent series Details) to Instagram.