Photographer Shawn Bush appropriates the myths of Western American popular culture to better denounce them. Through his series A Golden State, Shawn focuses on a “over-built system, failing icons and crumbled mythologies”. While he constructs his images from reality, the border between sociology and art is thin. “I am very intrigued by semiotic theory and the forces that create and define American culture”, he says. By deconstructing the image of an artificial paradise – Hollywood – he points to a world that is no longer idealised. “I want viewers to have a similar experience that I did while living there, confronting the space between reality and actuality, which is a mix of unrestricted love and dissatisfaction. California is a beautifully confusing place”, he says. In his images, the palm trees give way to plastic, artificial tanning sessions and cracks.
Iconic and strange photographs
“At first, I was drawn to the foliage and landscape that surrounded me. Since I never lived in the West, everything was fresh and I was interested in it all, meaning I photographed everything”, says the photographer. Originally from the East of the United States, he settled in California in 2012, when he started shooting A Golden State. Shawn Bush took an objective look at the territory and constructed a strong visual narrative that placed the viewer in the traveller’s posture. Through his iconic and strange photographs, he creates a new Californian landscape. “It wasn’t until after my first week long solo photographic excursion that I began to connect dots and build my own comment of Californian existence” he recalls. Inspired by Western cinema, Shawn Bush has drawn his influences from films such as The Magnificent Seven, Unforgiven, The Searchers, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. “These films provided insight into how that ideology and landscape was being presented visually and distributed at a mass level even though many were not entirely filmed within California” he says. The photographer moves away from the clichés and deconstructs Hollywood myths. A project that he is pursuing with a book published by Skylar Editions.
© Shawn Bush