Suzan Mikiel Kennedy

We noticed Suzan’s vibrant depictions of Manhattan street life immediately when she first submitted her pictures for the Giorgi Gallery show last December. Three of her images—a striking portrait of a horse, a surrealistic shot of a father and son on the metro, and one of two young men on the subway clearly hoping for a stroll on the wild side—were voted into the show by the jury.

During the course of the show, Suzan’s distinct style and vision—the straight forward and unadorned capturing of life as it happens, the ephemeral moments which distill the magic of reality into an image—caught the eye of many a visitor, often engendering the remark “I can’t believe these were taken with an iPhone!” A phrase we heard perhaps more than any other in the month the show ran.

We asked Suzan to be our featured artist for May, and she kindly accepted. Below are a few words from Suzan about her work and her inspiration.

These photos are a love story. I lost my son, Hazen, to cancer. For the nearly six years of his life, we explored every square foot of New York City. After losing him, New York City became an overwhelming flood of memory, too painful step foot upon. By using my camera phone, I began to focus on urban vignettes and abstracts as a means express my relationship with my surroundings filtered through my experience. If I could literally find five inches of beauty on a block that would otherwise be too difficult to reclaim, then, I could find five inches of beauty on another block, and crawl out of my cave of grief.

Every moment in life has binary conditions: light and shadow, triumph and loss, etc. Within three years, I have chronicled thousands of city scenes and inhabitants.  My current medium is an iPhone 3G.  Through the use of applications, framing and capturing opportune moments in space and time, my mission is to photograph the wonder, mystery, and humor of urban life in its chaotic structure. I record the present through the filter of my past. Most photos are untouched, or altered with iPhoto or various applications.

In 2006, the same year I lost my son to cancer, National Public Radio produced a feature segment on AJ, a woman who remembers the details of every day she has ever lived.  Her nervous system registers the physical difference of hours upon her skin.  To recall a date can evoke a feeling so intense it becomes painful.  It is as if her body is split in time- binary conditions-the past and the present.  She’s constantly watching the own film of memory.  AJ holds a management position at a top corporation, is newly wedded, and has a “normal life”.  What is normal, when you exist in two planes simultaneously?

As a mother, I utilized the vast cultural and educational opportunities New York City had to offer.  My son and I explored each Manhattan city block en route to various activities.  He would often point out daily scenes in life, or direct his stroller to his favorite places. Then one day, at the age three, my son was diagnosed with a deadly form of pediatric cancer. Within those two years, when he was well enough, we walked everywhere.  I pushed his stroller for miles in every weather condition, and we pushed each other to notice and appreciate everything we saw. Nearly two years later, he was gone.  He was almost six.  With his passing, I couldn’t bear to walk our well-worn Manhattan blocks.  It was too painful to stand without stroller in hands in the middle of vivid memories.  The binary states of memory and the present were emotionally combustible.  I had not only lost my son, I had lost my identity.

After several months of hibernation, I emerged out of my cave of grief, and went for a walk.  I had to make a call, and within minutes broke my phone. As good fortune, or inevitable technological upgrading would have it, my new phone had a 1.2 megapixel camera.  With it, I began to document my life as a mode of creative reintegration into the streets of New York.  On difficult days, the photos were micro depictions of light, shadow, color and reflections; intangible elements coexisting within a world of matter; different planes uniting to create art for a finite moment of time. Eventually, I upgraded to an iPhone, and have begun to utilize applications in my iPhonography. Many photos capture candid life at rest, and the unnoticed binary unnoticed binary conditions of life.