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Bushes of Bennington County

Started as a joke and ultimately pursued with obsession, these photos are all taken in Bennington County, VT in 2013 and 2014.

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.

HumorsBennington Museum
Of Land and Local - Burlington City Arts 

Published as a 60-page, hardcover photobook