Interview with photographer Lewis Bush

Interview with photographer Lewis Bush


– How and when did you become interested in photography?

When I was about 14 or 15 my father gave me his old film camera, the technician at school showed me how to develop and print the films and I was basically hooked from there. Like many others I discovered that photography made it possible to access places I might not otherwise go, and over time I realised it was also a way to analyse and deconstruct the things which interested or troubled me.

– Is there any artist/photographer who inspired your art?

I tend to work on projects with clear starts and ends, and different artists, and different people inspire me with different projects. The photographs I have submitted all come from a series titled City of Dust, which is about London and specifically about the idea of walking through the city as a way to activate and access its past. For this work there were a few inspirations or influences, Helmut Gernsheim’s beautiful architectural photographs of post-war London was one, but there were other influences which were not photographic at all. For example the Soviet neuropsychologist Alexander Luria’s research into memory was an important reference point, and particular his case study of Solomon Shereshevsky, a man with a near photographic memory who used his memories of Moscow’s city streets to help him recall complex information.

– Why do you work in black and white rather than colour?

I don’t exclusively work in black and white, I work in whatever medium and with whatever approach seems to suit the subject I want to talk about. Sometimes I’ll take photographs myself, sometimes I’ll appropriate them. Sometime I’ll do relatively straight documentary photography, sometimes I’ll use unconventional techniques like montage or double exposure as I did in my series Metropole, which is also about London. I think it’s all a question of finding the best way to talk about the subject at hand. Black and white can be a useful approach because it carries with it particular suggestions about the subject matter, a sense of history and gravity for example, but that can also be unhelpful in other cases, and it can feel manipulative or loaded for a viewer, like they are being told by the photographer how to respond to the subject matter. In the case of City of Dust it was partly a pragmatic choice, I wanted to use a particular type of camera to shoot the project and the costs of colour film would have been prohibitive. It also made sense though in terms of the atmosphere I wanted the photographs to have, I wanted them to look a little as if they might have been taken at any point in the last century.

– How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph/series of photographs?

A great deal of preparation goes into my projects, although that preparation is also often ongoing as I shoot, and the act of photographing is a big part of working out what exactly it is I want to say about it. With this project the photography began before I really knew I was doing, I just felt the compulsion to go out walking in the city with a camera and when I reviewed the types of photographs I was taking it was quite clear that my interest was drawn to these sites and sights of memory and history. From there I read quite a bit, particularly about the philosophy of walking and the history of London, and that reading increasingly informed the images I would look for while I was out in the city.

– Where is your photography going? What projects would you like to accomplish?

City of Dust is an ongoing project although I have recently published a newspaper which act as an interim publication showing it at its current stage. Beyond this work I am currently finishing a project on intelligence agencies and intend to do more of the same work in the future. In a way City of Dust really represents my old way of working as a photographer. I am much less interested in the idea of taking my own photographs now than in looking at what is already out there in the world, collecting and curating imagery in a way which allows me to talk about subjects I could never possibly go and photograph myself.

Website: www.lewisbush.com

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