TIME LightBox talks to Stephen Shore as part of our series “The Photo That Made Me”, in which photographers tell us about the one photograph they made that they believe jump-started their career, garnered them international attention, or simply reflected their early interest in photography.
I felt very early on that photography was my medium. I had started doing darkroom work and making prints when I was six. I was a little nerd and was interested in chemistry. An uncle of mine, who was an engineer, knew of my interest, so for my sixth birthday he got me a darkroom set made by Kodak that had hard-rubber trays, a developing tank and reels, and packages of chemicals with instructions. I wasn't even taking pictures, I was just taking my family's negatives, developing and printing them. A little before I turned nine, I got my first 35mm camera from my parents and that was when I became very interested in taking pictures.
I went to a boarding school in Tarrytown, N.Y. called Hackley in 1959. Williams Dexter, the photographer in this image, was the headmaster of the lower school and also the head of the floor I lived on. By the time I met him, I had been doing photography for years. I already had two Nikons, and a year after, [I] got my first Leica. He knew of my interest and gave me access to his darkroom, which was a great resource for me to have there.
I was 12 when I made this image in 1960. He was photographing the soccer team using a 4x5 camera, and I took a picture of him taking the picture. I printed it at the time and it has always been in the box that I had of my early work. It never got lost.
I take this image as an indication of a certain kind of visual temperament that was with me from very early on. It struck me because it's self-referential: it was not treating a photographer as an invisible witness, but about a photographer making a picture and you can see the picture he is making. You can see my shadow, so you can see me making the picture. It is also about its formal qualities - the way he is poised within the frame - which is something that's [been] true of my work almost every since.
Stephen Shore is an American photographer known for his pioneering role in color photography. He is the director of the photography program at Bard College in New York. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, George Eastman House, the Hammer Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago, among many others. LightBox has previously featured Shore’s work of Andy Warhol’s Factory. Follow him on Instagram.