Ryan Bush



Mysteries are hidden everywhere around us in plain sight, in bare tree branches and simple leaves, electric wires, manhole covers, shadows on stairs, buildings and architecture, even in our own handwriting. Some of these wonders we take for granted, while others we may never have really seen. For me, abstract photography is a bridge that connects our everyday world with imaginary worlds, places that are no less real just because we can’t touch them. We must be content with seeing them through the eye of abstraction.

I am drawn to images that carry a certain meditative quality. Part of this is achieved by using a sparse language of geometrical shapes, lines, and rhythms. Furthermore, I often use a narrow tonal range, so that the images are either overall dark or overall light. By abstracting away from the literal subject matter, I hope to leave behind the question “What is it?”, and let our associations to come to the forefront. My goal is for the photographs to have a feeling of meditative simplicity, so they are images not from our everyday, mundane world of hustle and bustle, but instead from the more symbolic and archetypal world of our imagination.

Memoria, 2011-2012

Winter strips the trees down to their innermost, leaving the bare branches stretched out in patient acceptance. They lie in wait, as we must if we enter a difficult wintertime of the soul, so leaves can burst forth once more when the time is right. In the meantime, the trees are comforted by the memory of summers past and by visions of springs yet to come. The tiny twigs still clutch the last few precious leaves of autumn as they sift the air for tidings of their beloved.

The trees in these photographs are from places that carry many memories for me, near where I live in the Santa Cruz mountains, and near where I grew up in Connecticut. Just as memories are built up over time, forming complex webs of repetition and reinterpretation, the photographs in this series are built up from multiple exposures. Since my digital Hasselblad camera does not have the built-in ability to capture multiple exposures, I had to create my own method by leaving the shutter open for a long time and uncovering the lens for each exposure. Since I’m never sure quite what the result will be, the process is full of surprises and serendipity, just like the process of forming and finding memories.

The images themselves are varied, just like our memories. Some are light and ethereal, while others are darker and shrouded in mystery. Some are clearly recognizable as trees, while others are more abstract, further removed from the original by all the built-up layers. Overall, I seek a contemplative and mysterious feeling in these images, as if from a secret, misty forest that lies partway between this world and another. The simple geometric compositions contrast with the endless complexity of the branches receding into the distance. Various influences for this series include looping music by Steve Reich and Zoe Keating, fractal imagery, and works by Richard Diebenkorn, Cy Twombly, and Jackson Pollack.

The images are captured using a digital medium-format Hasselblad camera, and printed as archival pigment prints. I use the highly-textured Hahnemuehle William Turner paper and float the prints in the frames, creating end results that resemble drawings, blurring the line between our external and internal realities, between this world and the world of our memories.

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