Andrew Bush "Vector Portraits" at M+B- Art Ltd (November 2009)
“Vector Portraits” is composed of 19 large-scale chromogenic prints and appears to tell the narrative of Americans and their love affair with the automobile. By turning his own car into a tripod, Bush rigged a medium format camera to the exterior of his car, while a strobe light placed on the passengers seat operated as a flash. Driving alongside motorists from Oklahoma to California, Bush manages to frame drivers in a uniform manner and transforms the unpredictable speeds of the highway into a controlled environment suited for portraiture. The motorists always appear at the center of the composition- if they’re speed increases their white knuckles clinch the top of the steering wheel, while others have their left shoulder bent out the window- despite this however the photograph never extend beyond the hood of the car. The road ahead is of no consequence to Bush rather he is captivated by the lull that creeps over drivers which sends them into a near-possessed trance and when they become ambivalent to the world outside of their vehicular haven. This curious state of being causes many of the drivers to miss the flash of his lens while others take notice like “woman heading west at 71 mph on Interstate 44 outside Rolla, Missouri, at 11:43 am in January 1991.” The woman appears to have temporarily taken her eyes off the road to confront the camera with her gaze. The flash illuminates the forest green sedan and its driver in a halo.
When confronted by the photographs in M +B they feel more like voyeuristic snap shots into the insular and private world of their car rather than portraits. In many cases Bush’s subjects had no idea they were being photographed or where the photographs would appear. The first component of the title “Vector” refers to “one who carries,” and in Physics refers to the distance between point A and point B. In the case of “Vector Portraits” the vector is the car as it literally carries the passenger from one point to the next. Andrew Bush is not concerned with where the motorists are traveling from, or where they are heading rather that they intersected with his camera at a particular moment in time on a given stretch of road somewhere in the United States.