If you think of visual artists as generally introverted and shy, you probably haven’t met Rick Shore. A more ebullient, engaged and energized artist is hard to find.
I’ve known Rick for many years, since the days of the old Prescott photographers circle in the ‘90s. As traditional silver-process photography joined the vinyl record and landline phone on the legacy-technology shelf, many of us drifted into other pursuits. Following some big life changes Rick found a new flow in music and songwriting, which led to his regular gig with MacDougal Street West, a very successful quartet presenting the songs and “experience” of Peter, Paul and Mary.
With the enforced break in touring due to the pandemic, Rick found himself with some time on his hands and, with encouragement from old friend and Raven Cafe art curator David Bright, returned to his archive of large-format prints to put together a retrospective show for the restaurant.
From the strong, subtle fundamentals of old-school black-and-white landscapes to bold blending of images creating dreamscapes in saturated color, many of exceptional size, Rick’s images draw the viewer in to explore both the sweeping statements and the details and textures of the natural world, which he embraces with joy.
He calls his blended works “natural abstractions, showing that Nature is at one.” I asked how he got into image-manipulation from his more traditional work.
“I thought I was a purist, but when I blended the right negative with its lover, I fell in love and saw them as one.
“It was fun for a while, but I found I was spending more of my time doing that than being in the field, and I didn’t like looking at a screen. So I started having a professional digital studio do it. I would drive down to Phoenix, and I’d be so grateful that I could do something that I truly loved and make a living at it, thinking, ‘How glorious is this?’”
“It worked out well because nobody was doing what I was doing at that time. In 2000 I was fortunate enough to win the Best of Vail show, and that thrilled me not just that I won it, but also that it wasn’t just for best photography.”
“I thought I was a purist, but when I blended the right negative with its lover, I fell in love and saw them as one.”
But the work of selling his art through shows began to pall, and it was harder with a family. “In the summer I’d be away for six, eight weeks doing shows in Vail, Beaver Creek, Aspen, and you had to sign up for those a year earlier. 9-11 took everyone’s heart and soul out, and I really didn’t feel like doing anything. Similar to what Covid does, 9-11 did it to all of us. To me it was, ‘maybe this is the time I should stop.’ I started writing more songs.”
“It’s been twelve years since I packed it up. I was a little tired of the road. It was better to have the galleries represent me, and to just stay home for a while.”
Part of our talk was Rick going through the gear bag like an old scrapbook, appreciating the feel and function of the meters, film holders, brushes and gadgets, and how these tools formed and facilitated the artistic process.
“It was waiting for the shot, waiting for the light to be right. I loved the craft of it. In the field you visualize, as Ansel used to say, how you want it to be when it’s printed, and you make those calculations, then you wait for the light to be right and you can just see it happening, and you take one shot, maybe two because it’s really good, then you move on to your next shot, and can't see any of your negatives for two weeks — no previews, no do-overs! When you’re excited about your work, it’s like a song that just feels right, it’s a glorious thing.”