Sun City: Instagramming for The New Yorker
If you know me and have followed my Sun City: Life After Life project then you know I really love the people and the place. You probably know that every time I go, I say it is my last trip and I’ll finally finalize my book project. Then, you might know that I still end up going back 6 months or a year later.
I recently returned to Sun City, Arizona, for what I think was my seventh trip. I went to a lot of events I’ve been to before–a holiday performance by The Aqua Suns (a team of synchronized swimmers), a game of pickle ball, a party, a poker game in the Men’s Club. I wandered the recreation centers and cheered on The Sun City Poms while they performed at a country club. I also witnessed something I’d wanted to photograph in Sun City for years–a birthday party. I was reunited with friends I’ve made there.
This trip, however, was different. This trip, the only photos I shot were on my iPhone. That is because this trip was strictly to gather audio and video. I have to admit, it was painful a few times to not have a still image (especially of the man blowing candles out on his cake for his 70th birthday), but I had to commit and focus (and cheat on the still image a little).
The New Yorker, which is one of my very favorite publications, published my Sun City iPhone images on their Instagram feed (@NewYorkerMag) while I was living my semi-retired life there this trip. I was also interviewed about this project on their blog Photo Booth HERE. (More photos from that trip are below.)
But why video and audio? On my first trip to Sun City three years ago, I was thinking about audio as an integral storytelling element for the first time. LUCEO was doing a political video/stills/audio piece and Brad Horn, an audio wiz, was working with us and stressed how important sound can be. When I first got there in 2009, I kept thinking about how much better it would be if outsiders could hear the tap shoes clacking on the floor and the harmonies of the barbershop quartet, in addition to the images. Ever since then, this project hasn’t felt complete. It’s one thing to see a photograph of granny tapping, it’s another to see how fast her feet move and to hear her 75-year-old teacher shout out steps. That was my aim to capture this trip.
I have an ongoing photo essay entitled Topophilia and it explores how people are tied to place. How hints of them are there without them even being visible in a scene. The inverse seems to be true, as well. I surely carry around some Sun City with me when I come home. I’m inspired by the energy I feel there.
Who would have thought that of all the places in the world, I’d end up in a city of 40,000 retirees year after year?
I have promised a handful of Sun City residents that I will self-publish my Life After Life book before the snowbirds head north in the next few months (hold me to it!!!). I hope the video piece will be ready by then, too.
I owe a whole lot of thanks to my sister Rebecca Brinson (a visual media grad) who came along to help me juggle the boom mics and tripods. She is very talented and I was thrilled to have her see Sun City with the same wonder I do.