Shaun Pierson is an American photographer living and working in New York City. He attended Rowan University where he recently received his BA in Radio/Television/Film in May. While studying at university, Shaun began to explore photography as a tool to excavate the recesses of his childhood. In an effort to further understand his recurring feelings of nostalgic yearning, Shaun began to loosely recreate childhood memories by utilizing immediate family members as well as locations from his youth to create his first photo series, the autobiographical fantasy Alvine Road.
PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: Alvine Road
I remember laying my head in my grandfather’s lap after he had pulled a splinter out of my heel. I remember tracing my mother’s back with race cars after making her cry, guiltily attempting to console her. I remember the many beginnings and ends of relationships, both personal and peripheral, of people drifting in and out of my life. Some returned and some I never saw again. More than anything, however, I remember a childhood fraught with violence, beauty, and intimacy, a period in which the concept of time proved irrelevant and the smallest moments seemed to last forever.
By interspersing dramatic environmental portraiture with its classic twin, my work looks at the individual in relation their surroundings and questions the impact that these seemingly innocuous upbringings have on youth as they progress into adulthood. How large of an impact does learned behavior have on who we become? How much control do we have over our lives and what is already programmed into us?
Drawing from fragmented pieces of my own memory, as well as imagined scenarios, these photographs explore the tumultuous nature of childhood and fulfill a nostalgic yearning for a time long past. Through this work, I revisit the half-remembered memories from my childhood in an attempt to further understand myself, resulting in images that touch on subtopics such as childhood trauma, adolescent intimacy, and the disintegration of relationships.
When and where did Alvine Road begin?
During my junior year at college, I took my first ever photography course. The work that I was being exposed to at that time was nothing short of incredible and laid the groundwork for my own photos. Initially, I began to take pictures of my family because they were readily available. When you're starting out in photography, I've learned that it's best to stick to what you know. In this case, my family was what I knew best and I utilized them as frequently as I could. It wasn't until my senior year of college over one year later that Alvine Road really started to take shape. During this time, I had a few wonderful mentors and friends who challenged my ideas and forced me to look a little deeper within myself. That's when I discovered that I wasn't taking pictures of my family simply because they were readily available. This work wasn't really about them; it was about me. The reason that I gravitated so much towards them was because they represented something from my childhood, different memories and life events. After coming to that realization, the way I was working started to change. I was ready to embrace vulnerability and make work that I felt emotionally connected to.
Where do you see this project going?
The series is most definitely a work in progress and I can't say that I know where it's going or that it will ever be complete. Relationships fall apart, people die, people get married, and life continually changes. The only way this series can end is if I run out of things to say. I sincerely hope that does not happen, but it's always hard to tell. 20 years down the line, who knows where I'll be. The work has not been professionally exhibited yet, but that's that I plan to change in the near future. I would love to be given the opportunity to share the project with people so that they might find pieces of themselves and their own childhoods, whether it's in the color of someone's shirt or an expression in someone's face. I set out to make the series specific to only me that way viewers would not feel alienated. Keeping some mystery is extremely important to me.
What helps you sustain your current creative practice?
I am not one of those people who carries a camera around with me everywhere I go. I would love to be one of those people, but I simply am not. I value creativity above everything else, but it usually comes in waves. Sometimes I can make four to five images in a single weekend and love them so much that I instantly add them to the series. Other times, I can take three-hundred images and hate every single one. I think the key to staying motivated is to keep working. Even if I'm exhausted and am not in a creative headspace, I still push through it and at least attempt to create something out of it. Staying stagnant can sometimes feel comfortable, but I do not want to be the type of person who revels in comfortability.
What’s next for you?
For the time being, I just want to keep making work and continue to shop my work around to a variety of galleries and publications in hopes that someone will connect with it and possibly even include it in an exhibition. Being an artist in 2019 is an amazing thing because there are endless resources at your fingertips. I refuse to let those resources go to waste.
What other artists should we be keeping an eye on?
Danna Singer, Isabel Magowan, and Jenny Drumgoole are all phenomenal artists who continue to inspire me every day with their incredible work. Without them, who knows where my work would be at right now. They are not only great artists, but great friends as well.