Comparing the work of John Salt (painter) with Stephen Shore (photographer)

I've always been a fan of superrealist art - and especially the extraordinary art of John Salt.
He's a really interesting painter, not least because he was born in the UK but made his reputation in the US, depicting uniquely american subjects.
A new book on his work, (John Salt-The Complete Works 1969-2006) is a retrospective look at his life and work and features many works I've never seen before. The book, which includes extracts from interviews with the artist, makes fascinating reading for anyone familiar with realist colour photography from the 1970's. The use of colour, fascination with the ordinary and attention to surface detail is remarkably familiar to anyone familiar with photographers such as Stephen Shore, Joel Sternfeld or William Eggleston.

As an example, look at this painting by John Salt (from the Meisel Gallery.)
Entitled "Side Street Parking", this painting was made in 1987 and is a watercolor on paper. The extraordinary detail, the clarity of the light and colour handling are all reminiscent of the some of the best colour realist photography. And yet the painting, the considered handling and judgement exercised by the artist offers something more.



The photograph (below) by Stephen Shore, is entitled 'Natural Bridge, New York 1974.'
As an image of a car in an ordinary, mundane setting, it shares some similarities to the painting above. However compared to the painting, the surface details, the description of foreground and background seem overall to be unaccountably flat.
While its perhaps unfair to compare the 2 directly, it does seem clear that one of the strengths of the painting is the artists familiarity with the subject over a period of time, which has allowed him to engage fully with the overall description of the scene and the quality of light.
As John Salt takes his own photographs and does not unlike say Richard Estes, alter the contents of the original photographs he takes in order to make a 'better' composition, it seems fair to conclude that what is seen in the painting is what was there at the time of taking the photograph.

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