The Nature of Photographs. Text by Stephen Shore. Nature of shore
Phaidon, London, 2006.
136 pages, 60 black and white and 20 four-color illustrations, hardback, 8¼x9½”.


The Nature of Photographs is the essential primer of photography, not only for students but for anyone with an interest in the medium. This book grew out of a college course that Stephen Shore, one of the world’s most influential photographers, taught for many years. In this book, Shore explores ways of understanding photographs from all periods and all types - from iconic images to found photographs, from negatives to digital files.

This books serves as an indispensable tool for students, teachers and everyone who wants to take better pictures or learn to look at them in a more informed way. Its aim is not to explore photographic content – the subject of an image – but to describe the physical and formal attributes of a photographic print, the very elements that form the tools a photographer uses to define and interpret that content. By teaching us how to look at photographs and helping us to see the world the way the photographer may have seen it, Shore also teaches us a way of looking at the world around us.

The Nature of Photographs is a primary tool for critical analysis and the understanding of photography in general. As one of the photographers who established colour photography as a legitimate medium of artistic expression in the early 1970s and an influential and important teacher of both the theory and practice of photography, Stephen Shore is the ideal guide to the subject of ‘how’ to look at photographs. By putting himself in the shoes of the photographers, he imagines the concerns or approach to the subject or concept they may have had when they were taking the picture.

As well as a selection of Shore’s own work, The Nature of Photographs contains images from all eras of photography, from classic images by Walker Evans, Brassai and Eugène Atget to more contemporary work by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Cindy Sherman, Joel Sternfeld, Thomas Struth, Richard Prince and Andreas Gursky. It includes all genres, such as street photography, fine art photography and documentary photography, as well as images by unknown photographers, be they in the form of a snapshot from the early days of photography or an aerial photograph taken as part of a geographical survey. Together with his clear, intelligent and accessible text, Shore uses these works to demonstrate how the world in front of the camera is transformed into a photograph.

“This book explores ways of understanding the nature of photographs; that is, how photographs function; and not only the most elegant or graceful photographs, but all photographs made with a camera and printed directly from the negative or a digital file. All photographic prints have qualities in common. These qualities determine how the world in front of the camera is transformed into a photographs; they also form the visual grammar that elucidates the photographer’s meaning.” - Stephen Shore

The Nature of Photographs is available at Amazon