Started as a joke and ultimately pursued with obsession, these photos are all taken in Bennington County, VT in 2013 and 2014.
The shift from the simple what (a photo series about bushes haha) to the why (I’m fascinated by a place, the world, I need to know about it) pushed the project into a higher gear. It brought me out of doors on frigid mornings to catch the right light, made me aware of which side of the street looked best at what time of day, and it connected every possible front yard to one another, making clear something that was otherwise obscure.
I named some of them after friends they seemed to resemble. I met some actual people, too. When you go snooping around front lawns taking photos, they come out to say “Can i help you??” and you have to engage them with honesty about this project which might be weirder than they had anticipated. After a while, the photos started to resemble portraits. I began to see these bushes as representative of personalities: their own, and those of their owners. In an age when we groom our own public personas with self-awareness (or often self-consciousness) these vegetal façades ended up being revealing. Owners either spend time caring for them or pay a professional to do the same. It’s often unclear how “self-aware” this care is: owners place them for aesthetic reasons so how much of the shape, color, or arrangement is considered? How does this one-time act translate into care over time and, conversely, how much information can be gleaned from neglect?
As the collection grew, the mass of images started to represent something about mass culture in a semi-rural place. Once the groove was set, the shooting sessions became a search for meaningful ideology hidden in this vernacular custom. “How can this image of a shrub convey a sense of the entire world?” It led to classifications and a greater awareness of context. There are bushes in residential and commercial environments, spaces somewhere in between, and these surroundings convey a delicate array of meanings.
The collection approaches 2,000 images which is probably about a third of all the bushes in Bennington county. This is a tiny selection of what I find to be the most incisive from the catalog. Beyond a taxonomy, the collection presents an opportunity for the bushes to speak for themselves. Each reveals a complex personality: ecstatic, pitiable, stoic, tremulous, enveloping, guarding, lone, grouped, wild, ancient, strong, flexible, trapped, wounded, resilient, etc. It’s not about the collection as a one-liner. If there’s meaning to be gleaned, it comes from each one and how it relates to its neighbor creating a sense of the whole.
It's now available in book form,Bushes of Bennington County here