If you were around in the 90s, you may remember a game called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” or the number of movies it takes to connect any actor to Kevin Bacon.
The next game should be a similar search for photographers. Despite the growth caused by the digital boom, the field of photography works in much the same way?everyone is connected by just one or two moves. In photography, however, these connections go deeper, often bearing the aesthetic and/or conceptual marks of these relationships. This is especially true of Doug Busch.
Recently, I had the pleasure of working with Doug Busch on the current Vantage Point exhibition, Scene on the Street: Doug Busch. This presentation showcases an extraordinary group of large-format contact prints?that is, the prints are the same size as the original negative. The photos are both compositionally and formally stunning and the wealth of detail is enhanced by the beautiful printing.
Busch’s introduction large-format photography is a result of his relationship with famed photographer Art Sinsabaugh, who is noted for his use of a banquet camera that produced 12-by-20-inch negatives. Later, Busch served as an assistant to Ansel Adams and Al Weber. As an assistant, he refined his technical skills and developed a deeper sensitivity to tonal range.
After forging connections with these noted photographers, Busch took to the streets of major cities with large-format cameras?ranging from 12-by-20 inches to 30-by-50 inches?which he built himself. The images in Scene on the Street focus primarily on the 1980s and early 1990s, as the photographer lived and moved about from Denver to Chicago, Atlanta, and other cities. Busch’s degrees of connection infused his work, yet the result was a series that is uniquely his own.
Today, Busch’s abilities as a technician and a photographer have formed new degrees of connections. Many photographers work with cameras that Busch has made for them. Busch notes, “Eikoh Hosoe owned one of my 20×24 cameras…Fredrick Marsh and Ardene Nelson owned and shot with many of my cameras…they both received the Guggenheim grants last year.” But when asked about who he has mentored, Busch only highlights that connections between photographers work both ways, “I feel strange saying I mentored anyone…it is always a shared learning and teaching experience for me.”On display at SBMA until December 2, Scene on the Street: Doug Busch has already inspired many visitors and practicing photographers, only adding to the degrees of photographic connections for viewers, scholars, and possibly Google to query in the future. Come hear more about Busch’s work and his connections.
Doug Busch: A Conversation
Sunday, October 14, 2:30 pm
Join photographer Doug Busch and theorist Colin Gardner as they discuss Busch’s work, the power of photography, and the oddity of using a 450-pound, 30-by-50 inch camera to make street photographs. A self-proclaimed “crossover artist,” Busch combines technical mastery and aesthetic sensitivity in his images. Crossover scholar, Colin Gardner, who has written on topics from film theory to fine art, leads the discussion.
Mary Craig Auditorium
Free for SBMA Members/$10 Non-Members/$6 Senior Non-Members
Tickets available at the Museum Visitor Services desks, or online at tickets.sbma.net