You only need to look at artist Jordan Sullivan's work to know he makes no distinction between his life and his art. The two are completely intertwined. Channeling his ideas through sculpture, collage and photography, it is his 35mm camera that captures some of his most transcendental work. After a childhood split between the US and Indonesia, as well as a spell living in London, Sullivan now calls Brooklyn NY home. His work however, remains decidedly nomadic.
Most recently, he collaborated with Pamela Love to produce ‘The Ghost Country’ - a beautifully compiled book of prose, photographs and collage recalling a season spent in New Mexico. The work is imbued with a sense of freedom and his subjects render themselves uninhibited, bringing something real and honest to the frame. Ultimately however, it is the landscape that is the true subject of his work. Sullivan is at the behest of nature and this quiet awe pervades every image. Time stands still; Indian summers blend into hazy dusks, cool nights and a misty sun at dawn. Sullivan takes it all home, his camera a dream-catcher in disguise. We spoke with him ahead of his exhibition at Clic in NY to find out what inspires him….
Dazed Digital: ‘The Ghost Country’ is your third book. Did you set out on this road trip with this project in mind?
Jordan Sullivan: I went to New Mexico knowing I wanted to take pictures and make a book, though I didn't really have any idea about how it would turn out. I ended up with a lot of photos of landscapes, ruins, and roadside memorials. The images all had something to do with love and death. I edited the photos shortly after coming back to New York, but it wasn’t until a year later, when I was living in the middle-of-nowhere-Texas, working construction, that I started putting the book together. I'm sort of an insomniac, so I would stay up late, drinking whiskey and coke, writing prose pieces and making collages from obsolete road maps. Eventually, it occurred to me to pair the collages and text with the photos, and the book came together fairly easily after that.
DD: Your work invokes a sense of escape and adventure? What is it you’re on the search for?
Jordan Sullivan: Through photography I hope to get closer to the world, not escape from it. The desert has always been a place that I've been drawn to, particularly for its contradictions. Like any wilderness, the desert is a place where you can find peace but also somewhere violent and hostile. I went to catholic school, so when I think of the desert I always think of the story about Christ fasting there, then being tempted by Satan. It’s a holy place but also a place where you might meet the Devil. Edward Abbey said, “Whether we live or die is a matter of absolutely no concern whatsoever to the desert.” It's important to be somewhere where we are reminded that we’re just another piece of the landscape, that our humanity doesn't make us the center of the universe. I'm also drawn to open spaces, emptiness, and nakedness. A body can have the same attributes as a desert.
DD: Going out West on a road trip is true Americana and a theme that has been popularized in many art forms. Are you aware of these references when shooting?
Jordan Sullivan: I love ‘On The Road’, Stephen Shore's ‘American Surfaces’ and films like ‘Easy Rider’, but I don’t work with them in mind. I can only judge what I do on a personal and spiritual level, so I don't consciously align my work with art history or any cultural ideal. What I am aware of is how complex the idea of freedom associated with Americana is, and that complexity is often glossed over when considering the American West.
DD: Are there any photographers you admire, or artists that inspire your work?
Jordan Sullivan: My inspiration usually comes from my friends and family. A lot of my work is done out of love and devotion for them. My girlfriend's an anthropologist and endlessly inspiring. TK Webb writes amazing songs, as does Ben Schneider of Lord Huron, and my friends in El Dorado. I’m also forever inspired by Jacob Holdt, Miroslav Tichy, The Boss, and anything Terrence Malick does.
DD: What’s next for you?
Jordan Sullivan: Some book projects and a solo show that opens in mid-November at Clic Gallery in NYC.
‘The Ghost Country’ can be purchased from Clic, Dashwood Books and Opening Ceremony in NYC, as well as through www.pamelalovenyc.com