Life lessons: Stephen Shore

The American photographer offers his advice for living.

The photographer and professor Stephen Shore.
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Stephen Shore, 64, is the director of the photography department at Bard College in New York. Self-taught, at the age of 17 he began working with Andy Warhol. His work will feature in the Emirati Expressions exhibition at Manarat Al Saadiyat starting next week.

1. Master change rather than allowing it to master you. When I was 14, I sold three of my photographs to the Museum of Modern Art. At the time, the museum had a questionnaire for the artists it acquired. One question was "What is your philosophy?" I wrote: "I'm only 14. I don't have a philosophy." The only other time I've been asked this was about eight years ago in a New York taxi. The driver told me all the problems in his life: his wife left him, he takes care of his 2-year-old, he can't get a date, etc. At a red light he turned to me and asked, "What's your philosophy of life?" The only thought to come to mind was: Don't get upset about things you have no control over.

2. Live life with attention. This is one of the two central lessons I've learnt through my photographic practice. Some photographers find that when they go out to take pictures they pay attention to the world in a way they don't at other times. But if you can be focused and concentrated at one time, you can pay attention at all times. Attention is like food for the mind.

3. Question conventions. As an artist, I'm interested in asking visual questions that my work is an attempt to answer. When I see that I'm repeating myself, or acting habitually, I ask new questions.

4. Life is fascinating when you love your profession. As I'm now approaching what for most people would be retirement age, I've realised that as an artist, I can't retire; and as a teacher, I just don't want to retire.

5. You are very fortunate if you find someone you truly love. This is self-explanatory.

The Emirati Expressions exhibition, presented by the Tourism Development and Investment Company, opens on Wednesday and will feature work by 10 Emirati photographers collaborating with Stephen Shore. Visit

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