Sunny Suits is the California-born, Paris-based photographer whose personal photography captures life in its most rare, intimate moments.
“I started photographing in 2001 when a friend gave me her old camera before I went to Europe for the first time,” Sunny Suits tells i-D. “I didn’t take it as something seriously until around 2006.”
It was this year that Suits met Nan Goldin. Goldin is the first of three artists that touched her world. “It was immediate,” she explains. “‘The Other Side’ was the first book of photography I bought when I was a teenager. I suppose Nan is an entry point for art and photography – a bit like Warhol. She was for me anyway. I went from sleeping on a couch on Ave D to being photographed in haute couture back in Paris. She showed me the world: Russia, Japan, Portugal, Switzerland. Very glamorous times! By watching her work and edit I learned to see in a different way. Her knowledge on art and photography is pretty astonishing and she is very generous with that knowledge. Nan is very special to me. It’s more personal with her, our time. It’s a lot more than just work.”
In 2008, Suits was introduced by a mutual friend to Jack Pierson. “Broke and starving” in Paris, Sunny moved back to New York for a year and began to work with Pierson on his archive. “I remember one time he turned out all the lights in the studio, except for a spotlight on a wall where he had hung a few pieces of paper that he was painting on, Judy Garland blasting in the background,” she tells. “It was a real moment. I tried to convince him to make a documentary but he just laughed and said ‘I’m kinda boring’.”
During that time Suits interned two days a week at Mary Ellen Mark’s studio, Falkland Road. The internship was a six month program – and Suits stayed a year. “I saw the film Streetwise by her husband Martin Bell when I was a kid and probably 25 times since. They made the film after an assignment Mary Ellen had for Life magazine. It is probably one of the most influential things I’ve seen, every shot is perfection. They have this great union of work and love. She’s very encouraging, a dying breed really. The street photographer, the documentary photographer. With Mary Ellen I find her technique and vision meet. No happy accidents. I think she has shot almost everyone. God she makes me nervous.”
Something Suits shouldn’t be nervous about is The Wild Heart , her first exhibition at Daniel Reich Gallery, New York, the title of which is taken from a 1983 album by Stevie Nicks. Fellow artist Scott Treleaven, who has written Suits’ introduction, talks of friends’ unguarded moments in Sunny’s photographs, the narrative around her. There’s an unbridled honesty, spirit and eroticism about them, the people that mean much to her.
Ask Suits what to expect from The Wild Heart and she’ll tell you “a few beautiful moments”. She’s right.
‘Sunny Suits: The Wild Heart’, April 2nd–May 14th, Daniel Reich Gallery, New York, 10011.
Photography courtesy of Sunny Suits