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Stanley Marsh and John Reinhardt, Amarillo, Texas, February 15, 1975, from Uncommon Places: The Complete Works (Aperture, 2015) © Stephen Shore

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West Ninth Avenue, Amarillo, Texas, October 2, 1974, from Uncommon Places: The Complete Works (Aperture, 2015) © Stephen Shore

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Ginger Shore, Causeway Inn, Tampa, Florida, November 17, 1977, from Uncommon Places: The Complete Works (Aperture, 2015) © Stephen Shore

From 1972-1979, a 20-something Stephen Shore traversed the United States by road, stopping along the way to set up his tripod and 8×10 camera. When he got tired over long drives, he recited Shakespeare to himself, often adopting the role of Hamlet as he made his way from one in-between place—a parking lot, a crossroads—to the next.

Like Hamlet, the young Shore had lost a parent, both of them in fact, after he had shown their pictures in his historic solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when he was only 23. Unlike Hamlet, he wasn’t looking for revenge or anything so eventful.

In fact, he actively avoided what Henri Cartier-Bresson had named “the decisive moment” some two decades earlier; in conversation with Lynne Tillman for the latest edition of Uncommon Places: The Complete Works, he says simply, “I was interested more in the ordinary, of things not happening in your life.”

For all the ordinariness of the moments he chose to immortalize, the photographer has been pulled back over the decades to this body of work and to the common places he made uncommon. Originally published in 1982 by Aperture, Uncommon Places was resurrected in 2004, when the original 49 images expanded to 156. Once again in 2015, it was republished with 20 new images, many of which had only been seen by the author himself.

It’s easy to get nostalgic for Uncommon Places—indeed, for all of the pictures that made the New Topographics movement so unforgettable. It has come to mean so much not only to photo lovers but also to Americans as a whole, capturing a point in time to which we understand we can never return.

But the thing about Shore’s photographs is that in their precision and exactness, in the slowness and deliberateness with which they were made, we are permitted not only to go back to one place and one time but to also stay there, to stand still. These might be pictures of non-events, but that doesn’t make them any less cathartic.

Find Uncommon Places: The Complete Works here.

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Room 125, Westbank Motel, Idaho Falls, Idaho, July 18, 1973, from Uncommon Places: The Complete Works (Aperture, 2015) © Stephen Shore

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Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, August 13, 1974, from Uncommon Places: The Complete Works (Aperture, 2015) © Stephen Shore

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Room 219, Holiday Inn, Winter Haven, Florida, November 16, 1977, from Uncommon Places: The Complete Works (Aperture, 2015) © Stephen Shore

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King Street, Hamilton, Ontario, August 9, 1974, from Uncommon Places: The Complete Works (Aperture, 2015) ©
© Stephen Shore

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