Photographer based in Detroit, Michigan
Sam Gulliver, Portrait of the photographer.
Tell us about yourself, what's your background?
I'm from the town Kalamazoo Michigan, but I live in Detroit now. I've been taking photos in some capacity since I was 13. When I went to college I originally went for a math degree and took photo classes for an art minor. After my junior year I realized that photography was what I was supposed to do so I dropped out and went to art school in Detroit. The city has been the biggest blessing for developing my artwork. I am inspired everyday by the people and places I encounter.
Hearsefest, 2023, Digital Photograph, 4x5, Muscular woman posing in front of a hearse.
"I'm developing a documentary series that catalogs the Midwest's many strange side-of-the-road attractions. I've always been attracted to the weird and cheesy side of American culture, which usually steers me towards different subcultures."
What are you currently working on and where did the inspiration for it come from?
Right now I'm developing a documentary series that catalogs the Midwest's many strange side-of-the-road attractions. I've always been attracted to the weird and cheesy side of American culture, which usually steers me towards different subcultures. This series will be photos of things like the world's largest ball of string, biblical wax museums, Paul Bunyan statues, corn palaces, and many other oddities that define the midwest.
Red X, 2022, Digital Photograph, 4x5, Spotlight projected onto a wall of an abandoned Sears department store.
Innovation does not only happen in the field of technology — it occurs everyday in a creative practice. What do you do for inspiration?
For inspiration I just try to consume really great photography, movies, music...just media in general. Try and stay off the phone as much as possible, the phone is like junk food. Besides that, just going out into the world is the greatest well of inspiration that exists.
Incarnate, 2022, 35mm Photograph, 4x5, Man wearing a devil mask exhales a cloud of smoke.
Describe your practice and process. Where do ideas start for you? In the studio or being in the world?
It depends on the project, but either way it starts in the world. When I'm working on a documentary series it's a much quicker journey from the world to the photo...obviously. But also if I'm doing work in the studio, or doing a posed project, those concepts start in the real world too, I just have to think about it a little more to get it into the studio, then onto the camera.
(left) Pink Goo, 2023, Digital Photograph, 4x5, Pile of pink goo with serene expression.
(right) Young man and dog, 2022, Digital Photograph, 4x5, Young man wearing a face mask poses against a wall with his dog.
How do you make your work, does it start with a sketch?
I don't really sketch anything. I really believe the more you have planned the more you fail, so I don't plan. I think a big part of photography is about working with what you have, so you need to figure out how your surroundings and your machines can work together in every new situation you're in. I guess that's to say, my style is case by case.
Transdermal Delivery, 2023, Digital Photograph, 4x5, Woman reaching around to her back to remove a nicotine patch.
Do you have your own studio ritual? What does that look like for you?
I don't spend a big part of time in the studio. If I'm working on photographs that require a lot of post-work, I put on music and just zone in. I'm pretty abysmal at Photoshop so I end up watching a lot of Youtube tutorials.
Red Horse, 2023, Digital Photograph, 4x5, Horse is lit with a red light.
Who are your biggest influences?
Diane Arbus, Alessandra Sanguinetti, Phil Hale, Zhang Kechun, Stephen Shore, and my good friend Niki Williams.
Red Goat, 2023, Digital Photograph, 4x5, Goat with its head stuck in a fence is lit with red light.
Are there books or films that are an important source of inspiration?
The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Ruben
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A great photo has to have three things, and you need to be standing in the right place.
Untitled (Vacuum), Digital Photograph, 4x5, Hand emerges from a corner holding a vacuum which sucks woman's hair.
What is the best advice you would give to other artists?
You don't have to be poor to be an artist but it helps.
Colorful Aura, Digital Photograph, 4x5, Two people look into a backpack that is overflowing with light.
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