An eclectic selection of art connoisseurs gathered in Atlanta last week as filming kicked off for a documentary about the unique artistry of Norman Bush, a pioneering street photographer who creates art by photographing bill postings on city walls and images of street scenes that relate historic events and powerful movements. Entitled, Norman Bush: Post No Bills, the taping took place during a special exhibit and conversation about his extensive photography collection.
“Long before Facebook, Instagram or even the Internet, people used the walls of New York City buildings to post announcements and social justice messages,” said Norman Bush: Post No Bills director Ed Dessisso. “We hope to convey how Norman captured the moment that time, weather and the human need to communicate transformed into a torn and tattered third dimension with the texture and qualities of street art.”
Norman Bush’s photographs transport audiences through the streets of New York City for over more than a half-century. The atmospherically developed art is created from photographs of frayed pieces of posted notices and playbills plastered on buildings throughout the city. It documents “bill posting” as the pre-digital era social media, when social justice themes came to life on city walls.
“My father is a trendsetter. He was a street photographer decades before it became popular,” says Dr. Hector Bush, the photographer’s son and owner of Orthodontic Care of Georgia. “In addition to creating abstract collages, he captured moments in history that nobody would have ever considered extraordinary at the time.”
“For example, a photo taken in 2008 not far from Trump Towers garners a lot of interest. It’s a shot of a mural supporting the election of then Senator Barack Obama for President that reads: Make America Great Again Vote Barack Obama. Only a small group of New Yorkers know that slogan was used for President Obama long before President Trump ran in 2016, my dad has the receipts,” adds the curator of the Bush Family Legacy.
Pieces displayed at the exhibit included “Malcolm Lives,” a 20-foot blow-up of the Audubon Ballroom with Malcolm X on the façade, and a compelling photograph of impromptu memorials created after the 9/11 disaster. There was a huge digital wall with a slideshow featuring additional selections from the collection.
During the conversation, moderated by cultural curator and artist, Kevin Sipp, Norman Bush said his camera, “captured a running poster display, altered by time, weather, and passer-bys, of political and social events, the antiwar movement, the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s movement – all this was my material, my muse.”
Raised in segregated Louisville, Kentucky, Norman Bush’s interest in the arts professionally started during his service in the U.S. Air Force. After moving to New York to attend The American Academy of Dramatic Arts alongside classmates like Robert Redford, he went on to enjoy a 50-year career as an actor in stage, television and film productions in the US and abroad. His attraction to wall collages prompted him to purchase an old Leica 3B camera in early in 1965 which led to years of archiving wall-scapes throughout Manhattan.