A Golden State
Printed in Milwaukee, WI
From the artist:
A Golden State is an exploration into the mythologies associated with Californian existence. By following historical and contemporary paths of ideological propagation, A Golden State highlights the mirage of an idealized existence connected to place. Having lived within Hollywood’s sphere of influence, the dissonance between its reality and its referent becomes increasingly removed with its role as the backdrop of Western ideology.
Grab a copy of the book here
Book review by Dana Stirling |
“A Golden State” by Shawn Bush is a book about reality and fantasy, what the ideal is and what is actually there in person. Bush created a book where he explores California or the “Golden State” as it is officially nicknamed. When I think about the idea behind Bush’s book and the history of the state and the Gold Rush I cannot – not – think about the parallel of today’s new age golden rush to fame especially in California as the state of Hollywood.
With saturated, colorful images Shawn allows us to discover this land rich of history and culture from his eyes and his travel on the roads. This saturation of color is sometimes juxtaposed with almost terrifyingly banal moments that, in the context of the book, have a melancholy beauty to them.
What I found interesting is that Shawn does not do much to “tell us” the story with words yet allows the viewers to bring their own understanding of not only California but Americana in general. As an immigrant myself in this country, I see these images, this land, probably with a different set of eyes than Shawn or even other American’s in general. I see in these images an America that I think I should recognize, but honestly haven’t experienced in person and perhaps that is why for me they are sad in a way.
Sometimes the lack of knowledge allows me to see things in a naive, or you might call it ignorant, perspective. As I don’t always know that historical reference of these locations, I am able to explore them as a visual story as it is portrayed in the book with no additional outside baggage – for better or for worse.
What captivated me most about the book is just how the images are sharp, clean, crisp and vivid. These might be common and perhaps “must have’s” in any photographs, but here they not only create a beautiful image but enhance that California myth of color, glam and richness.
In an interview Bush made with the FotoRoom he says
“The work came out of my fascination with how disparate the look and feel of the American landscape is compared to how I was conditioned to think it looked and felt. Growing up in Midwest America, the only connection I had to the West and specifically California, was through media (film, music, television, news, magazines).
After moving there in 2012, I began to explore the entirety of the state on weekends and weeklong personal trips to form my own opinion. It was in that act of exploration that I realized the landscape was being utilized both as resource and a symbol of status in ways that were different than what I learned through media. After that realization, I felt the need to comment on its use of the landscape and the role it has in prescribing social ideals.”
We talk about movies and film as tools that have morphed and molded our minds about California, or even the American landscape and culture in general – yet what does the still image do that is so different? Is this book not a part of a larger canon of imagery of what we should know about these places? There is really no right or wrong answer or honestly even right or wrong question and perhaps we digress from the book itself.
For me these images make me want to get in the car and drive across this country to explore these places. There is something so magical about these images and the way Shawn composites them that makes you want to go and photographed it yourself – which I think is the best compliment a book can get.
In addition to the images, I think the success of the book is in the detailed decisions made in the craft of it. From the slightly muted and sandy yellow to the glossy paper, to the beautiful cut of the title in the beginning, all these small elements tie together the book and elevate all the things Shawn did write about it.
I found the last image in the book, of a poetic ray of light in a cave to be an interesting ending. Honestly, I would lie if I sat here and told you I know exactly why it ended with that photos. It is a slightly mysterious choice which I could analyze if I wanted to but personally like to leave as an open end to a pretty complex subject matter and book.
To sum up – I think this book is a rich and inspiring book that has beautifully crafted images that represent the golden state and the rich and complex culture we are surrounded by. This book is a must have in any photo lover’s library. Get a copy, get inspired and perhaps go travel this country yourself.
Grab a copy of the book here