A striking, varied and theatrical array of images starring NYC nightlife legend Susanne Bartsch, photographer Jordan Millington‘s Evolution of Innocence series elucidates the electric connection between artist and muse. The entire collection—which probes our ever-developing emotional vantage point of the world—makes its debut at Lume Studios this weekend, a realization of a dream for Millington. Within, each photograph is as thought-provoking as the next.
“Susanne and I met at Nemacolin resort while she was planning their 2021 Pride Event,” Millington tells us of their collaborative origins. “We hit it off right away. Her energy is electric, she brings so much joy and fun to life. I knew right away that she was perfect for my project that I have been planning!”
“The first order of business was to create the creative deck,” Millington continues. “I spent a lot of time coming up with the basis of the creative ideas. I found inspiration from my own life and books that I loved reading as a kid. I strive to keep everything very personal and close to my heart. I then worked with my friend/producer/manager Elizabeth Kline Murphy in figuring out where the best location for us to shoot at and how many days we needed it to be. We landed on shooting in Millerton, New York at Philipp Haemmerle and Elizabeth’s new studio.”
Venturing to Upstate New York contributed to the series’ abundance of energy. “It was magical shooting in this beautiful town, as it was away from any big city, it was a chance to escape from reality and be insanely creative. I then worked very closely with Philipp Haemmerle.” Another fashion and art industry legend, Haemmerle worked with Millington to further enhance each propose shot: “We flipped it on its head and added more wild elements to elevate the story.”
Bartsch contributed to the styling, which was led by Phil Gomez. “They pulled a lot of looks from amazing emerging designers such as Wiederhoft, Fecal Mater, Maison the Faux, Beate Karlsson and Bradly Sharp. We made sure that all the clothes were out of the box, nothing we shot was boring,” Millington says. “Everything had wild textures, bold shapes, we made sure they added to the narrative that we wanted to tell. When it came to the glam team I worked with Alice Lane for makeup and Sean Bennett for hair, both are friends and creative collaborators that push the limits when it comes to creativity.”
“We all worked very closely to make sure everything complemented each other. It started with the story, then the set design, followed by the styling, into hair and makeup and then to finish it off, it came to the movement and lighting,” Millington says. “Movement was key for this shoot, especially for the heavier darker side of this story.” For this, they worked with movement directors Paul Zivkovich and Austin Goodwin.
One final component to Millington’s process set the experience apart. “Before Susanne arrived on set I created long titles for each shot that painted the energy that I wanted to convey,” he says. “One of my favorite titles for the childhood portion is, ‘It’s your birthday! You can eat your cake and have it too! INDULGE & HAVE FUN!!! Life is best when you have a mess with a smile and have love in your heart <3.’ On the darker side of things my favorite title would be, ‘It’s so happy & beautiful but I’m still miserable #ClinicallyDepressed.’ I feel having the titles already in place allowed for everyone to be on the same page, when Susanne stepped on set and the lights lit the scene, everything became more magical.”
Millington always intended to have the photographs debut within a gallery show. “People are always just scrolling right past images on their phones and not interacting with life,” he says. “In addition, there will be video elements playing and large colorful shapes throughout the space, I want the event to be an extension of the photos.”
“I would love for this to be a traveling show!” he adds. “I put my heart and soul into this project and would love to see the prints go around the world. Next round, I would love the prints to be huge. Right now they are 42.9 by 35 inches and 35 by 42.9 inches, but in my dream world they would be 114 by 80 inches or bigger!” Bartsch’s larger-than-life presence—and the way Millington frames it—certainly calls for it.
Images courtesy of Jordan Millington