“The series Places I Never Lived is an exploration of the way that people put their mark on the world. While photographing the facade of each house in a sleuth-like fashion, I fantasize about who lives there and what life is like on the inside. It is not spying or voyeurism. It is about imagining my life in a different place.”
Joy Bush is a fine arts photographer based in Hamden, CT. She finds that she is drawn to photographing the echoes of the presence of people rather than people themselves. Her series Places I Never Lived will be exhibited in the Main gallery as part of the Griffin’s Home Views Exhibition until December 5th. We asked Joy a few questions to get a feel of her artistic process and inspirations, and we are excited to share the answers she gave us.
Tell us how you first connected to the Griffin Museum.
The Griffin Museum was off my radar until an art critic in my home state of Connecticut asked me what I knew about the museum. From that time forward, I stayed on top of what was going on there. Although I don’t make frequent trips given its distance from my home, I watch what is happening there and have been a member for many years.
How do you involve photography in your everyday life? Can you tell us about any images or artists that have caught your attention recently?
I always have my camera or my phone with me so that I can document an image. It is my
practice to make a photograph every day. On my daily walks I find images that grab my attention. It’s a way of recording my life, paying attention to those things that most of us overlook, giving things a chance to be seen. This is very different from simply going out and shooting randomly. I post a daily picture to Instagram: it is a practice that keeps me aware of the world as well as a game that appeases the frustrated writer in me. Putting a title to the work
demands that I be more thoughtful about what I am doing and stretches my imagination, bringing humor and insight to the picture. Combining the images with words feels like a meditative process.
I would be hard put to name all the artists who have attracted my attention. I find them mostly on Instagram and especially through #flakphoto (Andy Adams does an amazing job of posting images of photographers). There are images that seem similar to mine and so many that aren’t. It is a great network to open your eyes to other people’s vision. Lenscratch also is a place that does an excellent job of introducing photographers to each other. A plus side of the pandemic was having access to online exhibitions and seeing the work of photographers I might have otherwise missed.
Please tell us a little about your series Places I Never Lived, and how it was conceived.
The series is an exploration of the way that people put their mark on the world. While photographing the facade of each house in a covert fashion, I fantasize about who lives there and what life is like on the inside. It is not spying or voyeurism. It is about imagining my life in a different place. At the same time what draws me to these places is the echo of a human presence, even though people themselves are absent. Inevitably, a barrier exists between each house and me. Carefully groomed landscaping and fencing can block my way as completely as a cluster of trees or untrimmed hedges. This, however, only adds to the seductiveness of the place. And that only reinforces my questions: Who lives in these houses? And who would I be if I lived there?
How the series was conceived is not as simple as what I have written. It evolved from a long series of coincidences. Over many years I did a number of images of peoples’ yards paying particular attention to the landscaping. Then I started paying attention just to the shrubbery. Then to pools—in ground, above ground, children’s pools. And this was not simply a record-taking exercise; I made pictures. One day, on a walk with a friend, I saw this house that had a huge hedge around it, so tall, in fact, that all I could see from the street were two chimneys..and my heart took a leap. I knew then that a new series or direction was opening up to me. While the house is a facade, it suggests a story to me. And while I am photographing, the story more often than not begins “once upon a time.” These are real places but they transform into imaginary ones for me because I have no factual details on those people who live there.
Has there been a Griffin Museum exhibition that has particularly engaged or moved you?
I have not been to many exhibitions in person. I was delighted to see the Griffin exhibited
Isa Leshko’s “Allowed to Grow Old. I have been involved in animal rights for over 30 years
and was impressed and moved that the Griffin was giving exposure to this topic while not
compromising an aesthetic sense. While I did not see “False Food” by Jerry Takigawa in
person, I’ve been able to follow what he does to draw attention to social and environmental
issues in a completely compelling way. Again, that was an important issue that the Griffin did
not shy away from. Recently, I was able to see Lou Jones “distressed:memories.” The
mystery and fantasy work as visual realities was fascinating and multilayered.
What is your favorite place to escape to?
A tough question because the two places that come up for me are so completely
different. New York City, absolutely. I never get tired of the city. Physically or visually or sensory wise. And the ocean..or any place near the water. The calm and the serenity. Just recently I came back from a brief trip to Maine. It was early morning and I was walking and photographing water and clouds. I turned in a circle and it felt like I was inside one of those snow globes. Three hundred and sixty degrees all around me…very few cottage or trees breaking the horizon. And I remembered hearing Sam Abell talk about a photo while he was on assignment for the National Geographic and how he spent a great deal of time getting a shot at sunset, paying attention to the setting first and then waiting for the subject. After he made his photo, he turned around and saw, as I recall the story, elephants walking across the horizon, and that was the photo that was used for publication. What I took away from this was that after making a picture, turn around, there is another, and often better, photo behind you. (No elephants on this trip—or ever—but always a picture.)
What is a book, song or visual obsession you have at the moment?
I wish I had an answer for this and am forcing myself to find something to write here. I
found it difficult to stay focused on reading anything other than mysteries this last year and a
half— and even that was hard for me. A song: anything by the Beatles. My friend, the folk
singer, Lara Herscovitch’s “Wingspan” keeps me moving along as does the sound of MaMuse’s
“Glorious.” Visually, well, whatever is in front of me.
If you could be in a room with anyone to have a conversation, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Teju Cole. I started reading his work about photography in the New York Times years
back, and I follow his books closely. I like the way his words and images work together. While I
don’t think of myself as a talker, I would want to talk about his take on words and images used
together or near each other. I want to know what he thinks about, how he approaches his world,
how he integrates what he knows about other photographers and artists and writers and how
they influence the way he interprets his world.
Mostly, though, I think it would also be nice to just be in his presence. And be quiet. I would learn a lot.