Jim Mangan's Bastard Child

Photographer Jim Mangan on desert living, geological #tripping and his 'Bastard Child'

Arts+Culture Q+A
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Image taken from Jim Mangan's self-published book Bastard Child Jim Mangan

All this month, we're tripping out with daily adventure stories. Iconic journeys, recent travels, sideways looks at out-there places and the sharpest of shots of the world’s underreported zones. Everest to Ibiza. Sahara to Big Sur. Under the sea to higher than God. Check back daily on dazeddigital.com/tripping. Right now, however, we're out in the desert with photographer Jim Mangan.

Born and raised in Illinois but living between Europe, New York and Utah's vast desert, Jim Mangan is a long way from home. Having made a name for himself with rebirth-themed portraiture of the wild side, such as his Sahara-shot Bedu or his Mexican outback and nude mountain shoots for Nowness, but the nomadic photographer inarguably comes into his own in his deluge of sweeping landscape photography. Mangan certainly does not do things by halves, and previous work of note has recalled Mangan creating epic blurry shots of naked models frolicking on dunes in the Sahara Desert. His most recent project, Bastard Child is certainly no exception; a barrage of visceral shots of the mighty American southwest. We follow Jim Mangan into the wild...

Dazed Digital: So you decide to ride into the desert. Why?

Jim Mangan: I needed to get away from everything that was weighing me down (mostly financial at the time), but I also felt this need to continue to create. I shot a bunch of photos that related to the photos I was about to shoot, which are all apart of the Bastard Child project, but I wanted to dig a little deeper. I started seeing everything in a way that I hadn't on previous visits. It was a great little breakthrough for me personally and it eventually led to my project, Time of Nothing, which I ended up showing and exhibiting before Bastard Child, these images that sort of became the unwanted project, hence the name. I did realize though after stepping away from it for a while I had a body of work that I really like and is very meaningful. 

DD: What did you see that thrilled you? 

Jim Mangan: These are areas that I've explored many times, especially over the past five years, and the more I go to the same places the more I see them differently each time, which makes it more and more meaningful every time I go. Whether it's a newly discovered rock formation or the colorful layers or the subtle manmade elements that intertwine themselves into the landscape, it all makes it an incredibly stimulating place visit and photograph. I love hiking into places that have no path and all the sudden I find myself in an area that appears as though it's a new planet; it feels as though I could be the first person to ever see it, which, of course isn't true. 

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Image taken from Jim Mangan's self-published book Bastard Child Jim Mangan

DD: How long did you stay in the desert? 

Jim Mangan: Well, I live in Utah and, therefore, live in the desert, but I do spend quite a bit of time in New York, so I probably stay in the desert a little over half the year each year. As far as the project went, I started shooting it in the spring of 2010. I just released the book, Bastard Child with some of the photos, but there's still so many more. It will always be an on going project. 

DD: How many times do Utah-ians (?) visit the deep desert? 

Jim Mangan: All of Utah is desert (including the high alpine regions) and, really, if you're there, you're deep in it no matter where you are. There are national parks such as Bryce and Zion in southern Utah that allow people to see some of the most beautiful and unique desert landscapes anywhere. They are very accessible. There are also areas that are off the beaten path and a little more difficult to find, but are just as interesting and unique. There's also fewer people and many times you won't find anyone there, which can feel a bit lonely at first. 

There's a guy named Billy, seventy-four years old, who lives in an old mining town and half ghost town called Eureka. He's one of the best story tellers I've ever met, there's no cell service there either, so you can't google any of his fantastic bullshit and find out if he's lying

DD: Why did you decide to feature the "deep" reset the geological features, the valleys etc? 

Jim Mangan: I really want to show the layers of Utah and mans interaction with it. In many of the photos, but not all, you'll notice man's interaction with it; sort of like he's always lurking and ready to fuck shit up! 

DD: Can you tell me more about the geology?

Jim Mangan: There is some serious history in the desert there. Some of the rocks in these areas are nearly 300 million years old and existed in ancient climates such as rivers, swamps, Sahara-type deserts and ocean.  

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Image taken from Jim Mangan's self-published book Bastard Child Jim Mangan

DD: These are, ahem, very #trippy photos. Did the total weirdness of the landscape get to you? 

Jim Mangan: I definitely feel this crazy natural high when I'm in the southern UT. I just embrace it all, take it in, enjoy every minute of it and, most of all, respect it. I camp solo if I'm alone sometimes and the first night of doing that is usually kind of strange, but once you do it without another human being in sight, it's a great cleanse for the mind and soul.

I camp solo if I'm alone sometimes and the first night of doing that is usually kind of strange, but once you do it without another human being in sight, it's a great cleanse for the mind and soul

DD: What drew you to these places? 

Jim Mangan: It kind of goes without saying the landscapes are the biggest draw for me and there's really nowhere else in the world like southern Utah. It's kind of become my little sanctuary where everything seems to make sense once I'm away from everyone and everything. There's a connection there and I never feel lonely when I'm alone down there. I, also, really enjoy the interaction with people in the small towns nearby. Utah is a quirky place and heavily influenced by Mormonism. I meet really interesting people from all walks of life. There's a guy named Billy, seventy-four years old, who lives in an old mining town and half ghost town called Eureka. It's on my way to all the spots I travel to and I usually stop by to say hello to him. He's mormon, opening a saloon in town, artist, art collector, gallery owner, curator, builder, carpenter and one of the best story tellers I've ever met. He loves to embellish (at least I think so), but I like to believe what he's telling me and pass some of those stories on, true or not. It's part of what makes life interesting. There's no cell service there, either, so you can't google any of his fantastic bullshit and find out if he's lying. I miss that in the age of cell phones and being constantly connected.

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Image taken from Jim Mangan's self-published book Bastard Child Jim Mangan

DD: How did you shoot from the air? 

Jim Mangan: A friend of mine introduced me to a friend of his who owns and pilots his own Cessna plane. He also flight instructs. He was kind enough to take me up pretty much whenever I wanted to for the cost of gas, which I would split with a student every time we went up. I could get within 500 feet from the ground once we were up in the plane. I probably stay between 500-1000 feet high while shooting. About half the images from the project were shot from the air. I shot another project, Time of Nothing, which was inspired by the Bastard Child project, completely from the air over and around the Great Salt Lake. 

Images taken from Jim Mangan's self-published book Bastard Child available at Dashwood Books, New York

Jim Mangan's work is currently exhibiting at Deichtorhallen House of Photography, Hamburg, Germany where it won first prize from the Lead Academy, the Museum of Contemporary Art Biennial Utah, and the group exhibition, A Thin Place, Berlin, Germany. 

Contact Jim Mangan at manganjim@gmail.com

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