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Gus Van Sant on the cover of The Travel Almanac photographed by Colin Dodgson

Gus Van Sant on the cover of The Travel Almanac December 2022 issue photographed by Colin Dodgson

Gus Van Sant’s America can be a confusing place. It’s at once a candy-coated, unsaturated, hedonistic image of youth. Simultaneously, it is an unfettered and radical document of underclasses and pervad- ing subcultures. It’s these shifting polarities within America that still feed his endless curiosity with real people and real stories. In his own way, Van Sant has always had an instinct for the power of images in cul- ture. From the early ’80s until the turn of the millennium, using a refurbished Polaroid camera, he would spend time compiling a visual diary of future icons, capturing the actors he was working with at the time. His book titled 108 Portraits is exactly as described. Ultimately, it’s the accumulation of images that really counts—each a story in its own right, full of energy. Famously, he found William S. Burrough’s number and address in the phonebook, called him up and in turn sparked a collaborative friendship that would last until the Beat artist’s death in 1997. It’s these spontaneous encounters that have come to characterise the director. Often described as peripatetic, moving from one place to another, his films scarcely fit together as one body of work. A deeply introspective story about a teenager’s involvement in a mystery death in Paranoid Park (2007) feels worlds away from his mesmeric early ’90s film My Own Private Idaho (1991), about male pros- titution. Yet, like most of his films, they share one thing in common—they are never far from the street. Van Sant has always found himself at home celebrating the bizarre world around him and the people that exist within it. As a painter, his stories from the street continue to find space to roam. During Colin Dogson’s vis- it to Van Sant’s Hollywood Hills studio, the director and artist sits down to show off more of his paintings.