Pomona College Magazine
Volume 45, No. 2
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Flash, Click, Hit the Gas
The drive-by photography of Andrew Bush ’79 leaves you wondering where the people behind the wheels (and an entire city) are heading...

Story by Mark Kendall / Photos by Andrew Bush

Driving around Los Angeles in his sensible-gray Nissan Sentra, Andrew Bush ’79 was just another anonymous motorist, sealed off from the passing world, until he decided to take along a flashy companion.

Bush mounted a medium-format camera in his passenger side window using a special bracket and, starting in the late ’80s, set off on a series of marathon excursions along the freeways. The photographer wanted to show people driving their cars, and the freeways provided the widest range of possible subjects. “We pass hundreds of drivers at 50 or 60 miles per hour every day,’’ says Bush. “But we seldom see or remember them.” Over the course of a decade, Bush’s project yielded thousands of photos and, because this is L.A., the inevitable car chase.

Bush knows well how we love to drive somewhere, anywhere, to be free and in motion. How we’ll find a way to justify going 30 miles for, say, paper clips, just to be on the open road. “Being sealed off in a car is not too different than being in a movie theatre by yourself,” says Bush, whose freeway photos were recently published as a book, Drive, from Yale University Press.

The difference: “you’re sort of the director of your own film and also the person running the projector. You project your fantasies onto the windshield and steer your car to what you want to see and into your own denouement.”

Cut to the chase, you say? Bush’s was the low-speed variety, though he still was fortunate to escape unscathed. After he photographed a passing Ferrari, the driver followed him down the 405 Freeway, so Bush switched to the 10, which runs into Pacific Coast Highway, where there’s a stoplight, which, of course, Bush got stuck at. The man got out of his car and demanded the film. Bush complied, just to be rid of the guy, but the hothead still grabbed Bush’s keys from the ignition, tossed them into the street and threatened to kill him if he ever “messed” with him again.

Such rage was the exception. Really, what sort of expectation of privacy should drivers have while hurtling along a public freeway with thousands of other motorists? “When you’re driving, you’re a voyeur to begin with,” Bush says. “I’m just a voyeur looking at other voyeurs.” Some subjects were flattered, even flirtatious. This was their paparazzi moment. “I wanted to make drivers stand still, and photographing them with a flash turned them into a celebrity, gave them a face and identity in a place where they seemed elusive, anonymous and invisible.”

The result of all his behind-the-wheel artistry is a collective portrait of L.A. that makes you wonder just where the motorists—and the city—are heading.

The photos have gone on exhibition at such venues as The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and, most fittingly, the Department of Motor Vehicles office in L.A. There will be simultaneous exhibitions of the work this April in New York at the Julie Saul Gallery and Yossi Milo Gallery.

Bush didn’t have the project published in book form until this past spring, holding off, he concedes, because there were just too many photos to sort through without the aid of a computer—nor did he want to acknowledge that the project was over. No car-loving Californian ever wants to reach the end of the road.
 

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