Lewis Bush is a photographer, writer and author of Disphotic; a popular blog on photography and its intersections with art, history and journalism.
Alongside Disphotic, he has written for a number of print and online publications including; The Daily Telegraph website, B&W Photography Magazine, The Photographers Gallery blog, Bagnewsnotes.com, Hotshoe, Of The Afternoon, Featureshoot.com, Ideastap.co.uk and The Duckrabbit Blog.
His photographic projects combine images and text to examine wide-ranging topics that resonate with the photographic medium and its relationship to our modern world – from investigating the effects of counter-terrorism and the prevention of photography in London, to reworking Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s War Primer 2”² (which was itself a reworking of Bertolt Brecht’s Kriegsfibel’).
We caught up with Lewis to discuss the future of Disphotic – which is currently on a hiatus, his self-published photobooks and the challenges of writing about photography in the online world.
Catch up on the conversation below:
Genesisimaging: Hi Lewis! Are you ready to talk about photography, writing, blogging and your self-published photobooks?
Genesisimaging: Great! Let’s start by talking about your interest in photography – where did it begin?
LewisKayBush: Accidently, like many I was given a camera by my dad, then I discovered the college darkroom (underused and great for hiding in, to avoid classes).
LewisKayBush: My interest just grew from there into something of an obsession.
Genesisimaging: And when did you begin writing about photography?
LewisKayBush: Writing and art had always been big (but separate parts) of my life, studying an MA two years ago brought them together.
Genesisimaging: What made you decide to start Disphotic’ and publish your writing online?
LewisKayBush: I started the blog shortly before I began the MA as a way to engage with photography more.
LewisKayBush: I was doing a fairly dull job in an office, and wanted a way to be able to think about photography even when I was stuck there.
LewisKayBush: I also wanted to get back into the practice of writing regularly, something I’d more or less stopped after I finished my undergrad degree.
LewisKayBush: I should add that the rationale changed as I got more involved in photography and more aware of the debates and ideas in it…
LewisKayBush: What was initially very insular and focused on my own development as a photographer became more outward looking.
Genesisimaging: What do you find to be the biggest challenge about writing and blogging about photography?
LewisKayBush: Tough question, I suppose finding some new insight or comment to make, particularly about work or topics which have been very heavily discussed.
LewisKayBush: Equally balancing your own interests with thoughts of what an audience might like to read about.
LewisKayBush: That said I generally don’t find writing much of a challenge, I really, really enjoy it.
Genesisimaging: You can definitely tell that you enjoy writing, by your articles…
LewisKayBush: Thanks, of course the advantage of writing for yourself is you pick your own topics and can always drop pieces.
Genesisimaging: With such an influx of information available online, what do you think writers need to stand out?
LewisKayBush: I think Jerry Saltz once said be opinionated or die’ – there’s an element of that, of needing to know your own mind…
LewisKayBush: But at the same time you need to temper that, you need to be able to rationalise your opinions, and know when to give space for other viewpoints.
LewisKayBush: Alongside that having a niche topic and a distinctive writing style also probably helps (Though I’m not sure I have either of those).
LewisKayBush: Then of course there’s lots of tedious self-promotion also involved.
Genesisimaging: Interesting! Let’s talk more about Disphotic’ – what made you decide to take a break from writing on your successful blog?
LewisKayBush: Ironically it was partly the success. I felt like I was getting too caught up on writing to an audience, I wasn’t taking risks or experimenting.
LewisKayBush: I wanted space to try different things. Also the schedule I set myself was quite punishing…
LewisKayBush: Which was fine in the year after graduating but as work picked up it became harder to maintain.
LewisKayBush: Lastly I wanted some time to absorb new ideas, not just give them out all the time. Writing can feel like squeezing a sponge dry at times.
Genesisimaging: Do you have plans to return to Disphotic in the future?
LewisKayBush: Definitely, the form it takes might change but Disphotic as a name/brand/whatever isn’t going anywhere.
LewisKayBush: I’m currently working on a new incarnation which will appear at disphotic.com in the near future.
Genesisimaging: Also, interesting comments about writing – maintaining the blog must have been extremely time consuming…
LewisKayBush: Definitely, especially at the start. But like anything you get quicker – at formulating ideas and getting them down on paper.
Genesisimaging: Can you tell us anything about the new incarnation of Disphotic and what you’re looking to achieve in the future?
LewisKayBush: I’m looking at the blog being very stripped down, simple and reactive. Basically a way to respond quickly to current issues…
LewisKayBush: But it will be paired with another format, possibly print, which will be focused on longer pieces with longer life.
LewisKayBush: So while the blog might discuss an exhibition, or a recent scandal, the print version will be focused on bigger topics and themes in photography.
LewisKayBush: It’s early days, but the aim is to make the purpose of each part clearer, and to address some of the issues that caused me to put the blog on hiatus in the first place.
LewisKayBush: At least that’s the plan!
Genesisimaging: Sounds good to us! Let’s talk briefly about self-publishing.
Genesisimaging: Tell us about your photobooks…
LewisKayBush: Most of my projects end up as books, specifically print on demand ones. It’s been an interesting experience but I think one that I’ve now more or less got out of my system.
LewisKayBush: I’m keen to try some new formats with future projects.
Genesisimaging: Interesting. Last couple of Questions…
Genesisimaging: What would you say is the biggest thing that self-publishing has taught you?
LewisKayBush: Probably that if you’re going to do something like self-publishing you do it for yourself and no one else.
Genesisimaging: And our last question… What would you say is the biggest strength of the photography industry today?
LewisKayBush: The knowledge, tools and networks are all freely available. You can bypass the gatekeepers and make things happen yourself.