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Stephen Shames : Vintages


For its first exhibition of the year, the Esther Woerdehoff gallery presents vintage prints of Stephen Shames, a great American documentary photographer born in 1947.

The young people Stephen Shames photographed in the late 1970s, in the best of the American documentary photographic tradition, were born poor in America, abandoned by adults and institutions, plagued by the violence of society. Stephen Shames becomes their spokesperson. Through his photographs and their dissemination, in particular in the form of books with engaged purpose, he insists on the idea that it is poverty which is at the root of all social problems and criminal behavior.

Projected into adulthood, unprotected, the very young people whom Shames photographs bear witness to, without pathos or staging. The photographer’s social and political commitment, which began his career in the 1960s as a columnist for the Black Panther Party, was confirmed in these reports, often produced over several years. The photographer lives by their side and records the dramatic density of their daily lives, in black and white photographs full of emotion and brute force.

Stephen Shames was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1947 and studied at the University of Berkeley, California. It was at the age of 19, during a demonstration in San Francisco against the Vietnam War, that he met

the future founders of the Black Panthers movement. He began to photograph the movement, in all its aspects, and was its main columnist for seven years. As a photojournalist, Stephen Shames views photography as a weapon of liberation, as a means of fighting for justice and social equity. During his long career, he documents the lives of the poorest, the most neglected populations and the youth who try to live and grow up in harsh and hostile environments.

In his own words, his photographic approach is to give a voice to those who are deprived of it. He is particularly interested in child poverty and racial or prison issues to draw attention to social problems in the United States, as photographers like Lewis Hine, Jacob Riis or Marion Post Wolcott did before him.

Stephen Shames has received numerous awards for his work and his works are kept in the largest public collections. In 2015, the Nicéphore Niépce Museum presented a retrospective exhibition of his work, making it possible to make this great American photographer better known to the European public.

Florence Pillet


Stephen Shames: Vintages

29.01 – 07.03.2020

Esther Woerdehoff Gallery

36 rue Falguière

75015 Paris

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