Bus travel demands a level of endurance required by no other mode of long distance transportation. Depending on where you are and where you want to go, some trips can cross thousands of miles over a few days and nights. Although the bus is often in motion, each trip has several rest breaks and even meal stops, but you don’t really have any privacy or sleep. In addition to the long hours on the road, one must also endure long layovers in crowded stations and extended delays lasting many hours. These conditions test personal durability and compel passengers to achieve a unique state of perseverance necessary to complete the journey.
In 2011, I began riding long distances by buses in order to develop a series of portraits featuring bus travelers. I have now traveled over 40,000 miles by commercial bus lines through North America and Australia to make this body of work. When taking these photographs, I look for passengers who are on a layover sitting on a bench or leaning on a wall in an unfamiliar place. I wait until I find a potential subject who has exhausted all the enjoyment or need from their mobile device and is simply waiting. It is in these moments when one can’t help but to become contemplative. While brought on by exhaustion, among other challenges, I believe the expression on their faces is the look of endurance. I am inspired by that look and I am fascinated with the process of getting to that state of being.
Dan Gemkow is an artist and Instructor of Photography. He is originally from New Hampshire and grew up in the suburban Chicago area. He received a Master’s degree in Fine Arts in 2010 from the University of Missouri. Since completion of his MFA, Gemkow taught both traditional darkroom and digital photography for three years at Missouri Valley College. Currently, he lives and works in Chicago.
Gemkow’s photographs have been exhibited in several galleries and museums including the Center for Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado, the Kaunas Photo Festival in Kaunas, Lithuania, the PH21 Gallery in Budapest, Hungary, the Rogue Space Chelsea in New York City, the Masur Museum of Art in Louisiana, the New Hampshire Institute of Art, the Foundry Art Center in St. Charles, Missouri, the Kevin Milligan Gallery in the Bay Area of California, the Black Box Gallery in Oregon, the PhotoPlace Gallery in Vermont, the Midwest Center for Photography in Kansas, the Tubac Center for the Arts in Arizona, several galleries around the Midwest and Gallery MM in Yokohama, Japan.