Susanne Bartsch and Jordan Millington Bring The Nostalgia For ‘Evolution of Innocence’
And it's beyond your wildest imagination.
And it's beyond your wildest imagination.
Text: Kevin Ponce
It’s no secret that life during our childhood was just a *tad* bit sweeter—just ask photographer Jordan Millington, the image-maker behind this weekend's new exhibition titled ‘Evolution of Innocence’. With the help of famed NYC nightlife legend and LGBTQIA+ icon Susanne Bartsch, the new photo series explores the journey of one’s innocence in life through a whole new lens, morphing from a vision of light and happiness to a spellbinding state of chaos. V's Kevin Ponce caught up with the photographer to discuss how the partnership came to be and his thoughts on if innocence could be everlasting.
Discover our exclusive interview with Millington, below:
Kevin Ponce: How did this collaboration come about?
Jordan Millington: Susanne (Bartsch) and I met at Nemacolin’s Summer Camp Pride. We really got to know each other throughout the process of planning the event and we really hit it off! She was super cozy, sweet, spunky, and a joy to be around. I knew right away that she would be the perfect muse for the week-long project that I’ve been planning for the past several years.
KP: Could you describe the concept/narrative that viewers can expect?
JM: There are two contrasting narratives at play. The first, an innocent child playing and having fun with no real definition to what’s going on around them. The second, the dark and heavy energy we can go through as adults. Half of the images are of Susanne playing pretend, watering plants, a picnic with her insect friends and floating down a quiet stream on a leaf. In the darker images, she’s full of angst, anxiety, and madness. In this portion, she’s surrounded by large ink blots that represent the state of her mind, laying on a bed on nails, walking though her dilapidated old home while wearing a wedding dress, and feeling the bitter sadness that mental illness and unfortunate events can cause in our lives.
KP: What is it about childhood in particular that you find most fascinating?
JM: I’m obsessed with the moments of playing pretend, moving around the world without giving definition to all the objects and places around us. Looking back, I remember doing random things like making mounds of dirt and spitting on the top. I’d watch the spit roll down the mound of dirt and a dirt ball would form. I’d take a stick and poke it into the dirt and make a dirt popsicle. Bottom line, I would do random stupid shit and it would be so fun!
KP: In your opinion, does the quality of innocence remain as we grow, or is it something fleeing, never to return and only to be remembered?
JM: I feel like it depends on the person. I tend to go in and out of a state of innocence. I can be very serious and read a situation from the inside out. On the other hand I can tap into being free, thinking without giving definition to what’s around me and just wading around through life’s moments having a blast. I’m not able to do this often but when I do, I truly feel like a child again, full of innocence and pure joy. During this project, I had several moments where I was able to tap into an innocent state of mind, playing with all of the beautiful and wild sets Philipp Haemmerle and I created, it was truly magical. It felt like we were kids playing in our grandparent’s homes.
KP: Are there any nostalgic references that we may/may not recognize?
JM: 100%! One of my favorites is the shot where Susanne is watering the plants outside her windowsill. I pulled this reference from my kooky grandma watering her plants every morning. I told Susanne to play and have fun watering the plants, Philipp put Gatorade in the watering can for an extra silly detail and it felt very wild and out of control. In the best of ways it reminded me of my childhood working in my grandma’s eccentric garden.
KP: Are there any personal childhood details that you’ve included in the show?
JM: The whole innocent side of the shoot was a reference to my childhood. My main outlet through life has been spending time in my grandma's garden and garage. Her garage is full of interesting stuff! She let me play with whatever I wanted, I built random things like kites and cages for insects, I played with her Barbie dolls, made cakes, dug holes in the garden and laid under the huge tree that slowly puts a cozy shadow on the soft green grass as the sun sets.
KP: Is there anything that you learned about yourself doing this project?
JM: I feel like doing this whole project made me learn and realize how manifesting is truly a real thing. I put all my energy and love into making this story a reality. I have always dreamed of working on a week-long project with my friends, being creative and to make art with no constraints. Spending an entire week with each other, we were able to relax and really enjoy the creative process. It felt so good to indulge and play. It felt like we were at art camp, something I’ve only dreamed of doing! The lesson learned is to dream and dream away!
KP: Out of all the images/concepts, which one is your favorite & why?
JM: I really don’t like this question! I have three that are my favorites, but if I had to choose, it would be the one titled Close your eyes and take a journey down the calm stream. You are the storybook, a fairy full of calm bliss. In this photo, Susanne is floating down the stream on a magical leaf in Wiederhoeft. It was a very blissful moment. We were all still, standing in the cool stream, listening to a mystical song on repeat. It was truly a special moment. Susanne laid in the leaf and I could see her glossy eyes fill with slight tears as she reached a zen state. It’s a moment I will always hold close to my heart.
Be sure to check out 'Evolution of Innocence’ on Friday, January 14th at Lume Studios in NYC.