Edie Sunday is a young, talented American photographer. Through her photographs, she takes the viewer on a wonderful journey through her intimate and personal vision of the dreamy and surrealistic. I had the opportunity to travel through her work, her stunning self-portraits and extraordinary landscapes. Read on to find out more.
Your colourful photos are snapshots of a secret world which appears far away, dreamlike, surreal and sensual. There are no urban, geographical or temporal references. The only recognisable temporal reference is in the colour of your hair that changes, along with the moods of the subjects in your photos.
How did you get to this photographic abstraction?
To be perfectly honest I haven’t ever thought too much about it. It’s natural in a sense because I do not like anything urban or modern. I learned to compose photos that cut out objects or references to the time and place, even of any reality at all. The time and place were never important; it was just what I saw in my mind. So those things—the references, didn’t belong. The photos I make are more representations of the inside of my mind, if that makes any sense whatsoever.
Your self-portraits are astounding. You have a great screen presence. Your gaze is both the inquisitor and the investigated, it stares straight out at the viewer. Your self-portraits don’t speak about an action, but about feelings. They freeze the emotion. They are reflected in your look, your eyes, your face, your hair, your hands, in your whole body, lasting only a moment.
How important are your self-portraits in your artwork?
Self-portraits, for some years now, have been the most important part of my work because it’s the only thing I do aside from photos of the sky out of the window of the car or the occasional paid job. I used to take photos of other people but there were very few people I connected with on a level that made it feel right. The people I started all of this with—we’re all scattered across the world now, pursuing our dreams and what not. So at a certain point I was left with only myself as subject. I did it out of necessity, but it became a catharsis and an important part of my life. I only make self-portraits under certain circumstances—typically emotional ones. Finally I realized that I made the work that felt the truest to me with myself as subject. I have no desire to photograph others now—unless they are friends and family that I love, or if it’s for work. I am the beginning middle and end of my process, and in that way it has become even more important to me.
You appear to photograph mostly women. Female beauty is told by small, tiny gestures. A feminine world of sensuality. You say without saying. Just hints. You tell pieces of beauty. A vague feeling like a reminder of David Hamilton's innocence and youth.
Would you mind speaking about this beauty and innocence that radiate from your female pictures?
It’s interesting to me that you choose those words because as we already mentioned, I mostly photograph myself, and when I am doing so I don’t feel beautiful or innocent. But I am happy those qualities come across—I didn’t know they were there. Maybe I am those things sometimes. A feminine world of sensuality is certainly there because it is the world I inhabit. I am very sensual person and I always feel a heightened sensuality when I am photographing myself. I’m not playing a character—I am presenting myself as I am. I don’t set things up to tell stories, I don’t think about poses or the final product. I just set the camera up and let my intuition guide me, I release something real that has been living in me, and clearly what has come out is a very transparent, vulnerable, and accurate depiction of who I really am. It’s horrifying and amazing that so many people know me so well.
The light in your images sometimes floats down gently touching the subject. Other times it rips the picture with a devastating power, becoming the undisputed protagonist. It is often impossible to tell whether these extraordinary compositions happen by chance or by intention.
Can you tell us more about this process?
I can’t be completely sure, and I think to some degree it is both, but there is a good amount of intention behind this. As I mentioned before, I don’t think a lot about the final product, but I am drawn to certain light or compositions because they match the experience I am having—they add to it, they tell another story that my body alone can’t tell. Oftentimes I’ll see a certain light—a strange light—and even if I’m feeling down and uninspired I’ll quickly throw myself into it. It compels me somehow. So that’s often how it happens. As with all of it, it’s just a feeling I get.
Your photos remain in this limbo of magical suspension between what it is and what has yet to come. The viewer wonders what they are waiting for: a turning face, a touching hand, a sense of belonging, some sort of recognising each other, the ending of the wind in the hair.
Would you mind telling us about these moments, about this suspension?
I have never thought about it before. It may seem redundant, but again I think this is reflective of the real experience I am having. I am suspended between what is and what is yet to come. I am rarely anchored or still in my mind. Maybe this suspension reflects how I see myself in the world or how I see the world in general—tiny, powerful moments that may mean everything or nothing, but that are the stuff that makes up life. There is a mystery to all of life and maybe this suspension I’ve created is reflective of my orientation towards the mystery. I am not interested in anything that is certain or finalized. Those things terrify me. I prefer to float; fluidity.
Open spaces, hair blowing in the wind, nudity, magic places without any identifiable elements. I can feel a kind of great yearning for freedom, or a hymn. A kind of getting lost in these no-places in order to find yourself, in the end.
What can you tell me about this freedom, spirituality, this self-discovery?
It’s all self-discovery. It’s years of being too afraid to really live life, and then a sudden explosion of a desire to exist and to feel my presence on this earth. I never know who I am but I do know that I am always searching for some sense of that ephemeral thing we call purpose. These photographs are a depiction of me trying to find mine. Or maybe they’re a reflection of me trying to disappear into another world so that I don’t have to. But freedom—I like that theme. A lot about my beginning to dedicate myself to art and to show it to the world was a desire for freedom. Freedom from myself and my own harsh judgement, freedom from society and the people who told me I had to do certain things to matter—just freedom from everyone and everything and a chance to be that which I am, uninhibited, without regard.
I believe that it would be impossible to achieve these results with digital cameras: do you have a favourite camera or favourite film to use?
I could not make my art on a digital camera. My favorite cameras are the Nikon 35mms: I used an F3 for years and I just got an FM3A body because my F3 finally gave out after many years. I absolutely love the FM3A and understand why it was so coveted and still is. My favorite films to use are Kodak Portra 160/400 and some old expired professional stuff that I don’t like to get too descript about because then everyone will buy it all off of eBay and I won’t have any left! It’s somewhat selfish of me, but I’d be heartbroken if it all got bought up by people for the wrong reasons—trying to emulate a style. That sounds sort of shitty and I don’t think everyone is just trying to emulate a style by any means. But there are many people who ask me what exactly I use from start to finish to make my work and that really bothers me. Not because I am afraid of being ripped off (that will happen regardless and it’s of no consequence to me) but because I want people to find their own way and not think that they need a certain camera/film/etc. to make beautiful work. There aren’t shortcuts like that. I try to tell people it’s not the film and the camera that make the work. We all have our tools that we know best, that we have the best working relationship with. But the photos are made by the person using the tools.
Projects for the future?
Who knows at this point. I’ve had this weird six months of being offered huge opportunities and then nothing pans out and I’m so saddened by it each time so I am trying not to be attached to anything right now. In fact I was told just yesterday that quite possibly the biggest opportunity I’ve been given to date was actually given to someone else. It was very disappointing. So now I’m not talking about anything in the “future” because more than likely people are just spinning my wheels. My only projects I care about and care to speak about are the ones I am working on with myself. I haven’t been creating a lot lately. I’ve been going through a strange life transition. So I’m waiting for the day that I feel like being with my camera once again. That’s my project—finding the artist in me again. Oh, and beginning to share my writing the way I’ve shared my photos, only through my tumblr (ediesundaywrites.tumblr.com) and some small print publications.
Suggest a movie, a novel, a photographer. Just say what comes to your mind first.
Film: The Great Gatsby (original), Novel: A Little Life (it will break you into pieces and it’s so beautiful), Photographer: Sarah Eiseman, I’m biased because she’s my best friend but she really is incredible.
Please tell us something about yourself. Just a few words.
Haven’t I just told you everything about myself? Kidding. Hm. I live my life either feeling like I am frozen or on fire, sometimes both at once, and currently I am obsessed with Peaky Blinders and I’ve been having dreams that I’m one of them and I’ve started dressing like Thomas. The end.
And now the hardest question: why do you take photographs?
Because I must! It’s where I am able to make the most sense out of this life. It’s where I feel the most alive and authentic and myself. And it’s how I connect with other people. I couldn’t imagine not taking photos. Taking photos is a risk for me, because the professional world I work in looks down upon what I do. I’m always risking that they’ll kick me out of the profession for good (clinical psychology) because I am “unprofessional” (taking nude photos of yourself is not only considered unprofessional but also often considered a sign that you are not sane). But I will never stop, it means too much to me, and if the profession ever rids itself of me then that is what was supposed to happen. I’ll always have my camera and I’ll always find ways to connect to and help others.