Waves - Inspired by the view from the plot of land and where he was building his house in the hills above Malibu, Douglas Busch began taking photographs of the Pacific early in 2003. He now made the decision to turn away from classical photography. Images taken by a digital camera offered immediate accessibility, direct processing and faster results. In fact, all of those things that image-making with a large-format camera cannot offer.
Initially, the pictures were studies of the constantly changing aspect of the sea, waves rolling shoreward and receding, formations of sand and stones, as well as the different lighting modulated by the sun’s position during the day and as evening progresses.
In the first part of 2003, he rented for a time a beach bungalow in Malibu with a sundeck extending over the surface of the sea. From then on, his sea images begin to move away from the type of photography in which the subject is easily recognisable, instead becoming increasingly abstract in nature until they end up as meditations on light and colour. He begins photographing the sea literally at every moment of the day and night, from the first light of dawn until the fading of the last traces of natural light in the evening, finally using searchlights to illuminate the water at night. These photographs exhibit an ever greater degree of reduction to essentials, and even when he finally moves into his new house high above Zuma Beach, he continues his reflections about the nature of the sea.
With their starkly reduced range of colours, the resulting pictures have little in common with photography in the generally accepted sense of the word. These monochrome studies lack anything like an identifiable content. We are now dealing with the play of light and colour in a visual space. Within these structures, it is still occasionally possible to make out individual waves or clouds. These almost serve further to heighten the impact of these images, as they comprise the only point of reference within them.
Wonderful though these large-format square images with sides 180 cm long might be, it is immensely difficult to give even an approximate impression of their effect in a book of this nature.
For over 20 years, Douglas I. Busch explored and utilised the possibility of attaining maximal precision when taking and reproducing his photographs. He developed the largest transportable camera in the world, “De Golden Busch”, with a negative format of about 40 x 60 in. At the end of this long path, he turned around and showed the simplest thing that one can ever see in this world: the play of light on and over the water of the sea. These works remind me – for all their obvious differences – of the paintings of Mark Rothko, in which – just as in Busch’s case – complexity is concealed behind an apparent simplicity.
The “Waves” are just as romantic as they are lucid. When we have absorbed their modernity and then return to Busch’s wide-ranging landscapes of the West or a picture like “Nabisco Bakery”, we are able to recognise an element that is always present in his oeuvre: his ability to reduce things to their essentials, a quality that has always been the sign of a true master of any particular discipline.