Review: "A New York Minute" iBook, by Stephen Shore

Post by Martin Brink

As much as I like Stephen Shore's photographs, I also like the fact that he constantly challenges himself. From his black and white documentation of Andy Warhol's "The Factory" as a young kid, to the color snapshots in American Surfaces, to the perfectly composed 8x10 work in Uncommon Places, to the 83 artist books made between 2003-2008, each one shot in a day and printed using a print on demand service. Stephen’s career sums up his curiosity about "the new" and his unwillingness to repeat himself.

Therefore, when it was announced that the A New York Minute iBook would be released, it wasn't a surprise. Logically he would make a "digital photo book," and he made one with content and a concept suited for the digital medium. He didn't just base it on an existing physical book or choose to show his signature photographs in digital form. There are lots of younger photographers out there obsessed with physical books and prints, but with a huge disinterest in anything digital. That Shore, born 1947, is exploring this area before many of his younger peers is a mystery.

A New York Minute contains 16 short films, all under a minute long, shot in the streets of New York. The scenes range from still life, sidewalks with people passing by, traffic, people coming up and down the subway stations. It's easy to draw a comparison to Alec Soth's video piece Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree, also consisting of a collection of short films, but instead edited and sequenced into one video. I like that I can flick through the films in Shore's iBook, to have a clear separation between them, instead of seeing one long video of clips. That said, I do think that Soth’s material is of higher quality, at least technically. I don't know when Shore’s videos were filmed, but I wish they were higher res. Maybe it was a conscious decision, or a way to keep the file size down, or it might just be down to the camera he used. Nonetheless, I enjoy the films, and although it's a collection of short films you're flicking through, it feels fluid and natural. Maybe because of the simple design and the lack of sound and text (except from the foreword by Luc Sante).

For me, the highlight is on page 14, where we see a quite stunning street scene with a fast food salesman setting up his stand in the foreground, a lady smoking her cigarette in the background, while people and cars are passing by. Many of the scenes in the iBook reminds me of how we observe things, maybe more so than photographs do.

A New York Minute isn't without its faults, but I do think it's worth getting if you can display it. It's $8.99, and really, that’s less than what we pay for getting most books shipped to us. Recommended.


Martin Brink is a Swedish photographer and artist. He's also the former founder and editor of The Digital Photobook.