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When I arrived in San Francisco in January 1975, my Ford Maverick filled with boxes containing what my twenty-four-year-old self considered valuable, I had fairly typical aspirations for a photographer entering graduate school: I wanted to make photographs, get them shown, and find a teaching position after graduation. What I didn’t anticipate was becoming an art critic or making the images that would come to define my work.

Eight decades since, reproductions continue proliferating, so much so that nobody keeps complete score. The picture's popularity is unquestionable. But popularity can be blinding. That may be the case with this still-celebrated photograph. Migrant Mother is typically viewed by both champions and critics as resembling the holy family, thus invoking the authority of traditional art as well as belief.

To invoke the initial premise of making photographs that were like how people talked, if a snapshot captured a comment or quick remark, a larger format could contain the detail and nuance of a conversation. ‘I really was going to do American Surfaces with a larger format’, Shore recalls. ‘And then, I found that the larger format led me to discover other things about photographic seeing that I wanted to explore.'

In an age of mayhem, everyone needs ballast and, for most people, I would guess, that ballast is made of several different things. Near the top of my personal list: photobooks. I take a photobook off the shelf and spend twenty or thirty minutes with it, and this relatively brief immersion provisionally repairs the world.