Cole Sprouse's year in photos
From his first commission to his latest fashion story, Cole Sprouse talks us through his photographic journey.
All images courtesy Cole Sprouse
We asked a handful of our favourite photographers to look back at 2019 and remember it through the photographs they took. From i-D contributions to personal pictures of friends, family and strangers on the street, this is Cole Sprouse: My Year in Photos.
Cole Sprouse first began placing himself behind the camera whilst studying at New York University. "I was an archaeological student, and during excavations I became obsessed with documenting the land and lives of other countries and people," he says. His interest eventually culminated in a small commission from Traveler magazine on a cross-country story across America. "A lot has changed since then." Alongside his acting roles, he's shot editorials for L'Uomo Vogue, 10 Magazine and W, candid images backstage at the Met Ball and, most notably, of the strangers on the street taking covert pictures of him via his second Instagram account, @camera_duels.
My primary fascination within photography has always been the landscape. At least, the landscape was how it all started. I was an archaeological student in university, and during excavations I became obsessed with documenting the land and lives of other countries and people. This anthropological work would eventually turn me to look for possible photo patrons in New York City that would help support the passion. I booked a small, unpaid gig with Conde Nast’s Traveler magazine to shoot a story I had pitched about a cross country trip by rail. Here’s a quick throwback of one of the shots. A lot has changed since then.
As a consequence of living within one of the greatest fashion hubs on earth, New York City, I got swept up into a group of young like-minded photographers in school who would travel during the week to odd locations to shoot portfolios for models/stylists/etc. I ended up doing quite a bit of breaking and entering in order to find novel locations that hadn’t been overexposed (like much of the rest of the city). This is how I ended up building much of my own early portfolio. Here’s a photo from a roadtrip some of us had taken out to the country during one beautiful day in fall.
Pretty early on I guess I associated the act of travel and discovery to my own photography ‘style,’ and used the landscape as both backdrop and supporting subject. I let the landscape do most of the heavy lifting. Truly, for me, the person or fashion within the frame served primarily as a garnish, something to accommodate the landscape rather than the opposite. As a consequence I forced my way into places in order to photograph places others hadn’t.
This was a small series I had done that served as such an example: an agricultural sulfur field on the northern shore of Vancouver. My friend Sasha and I woke up at the crack of dawn in order to get golden hour lighting on the already golden hills of the city. This shoot was really what catalysed my fever for landscapes.
There came a time to balance the legal restrictions of commercial and editorial work with a guerilla kind of photography I was doing before. It took me a hot second to work out shooting permits, but I ended up getting quite intense about ensuring a photogenic location above all else.
This was a series I shot earlier this year at the Salton Sea. I had always wanted to photograph the location, as the lake itself is highly alkaline, and it creates a shoreline of crystalised animal skeletons and powdered bone. The lake became incredibly still near to sunset. I remember the entire cast and crew taking a moment away from our shoot to simply watch the desert sunset colour the sky and sea in the way it's so famous for.
Natural lighting has always been what I found myself most drawn to. Natural light can be incredibly limiting, and is often victim to weather conditions, and so for most projects I’ll bring auxiliary portable lighting kits. But I enjoy the hard directional lighting of a sunny day. These photos were taken after a small film I directed this year, at a train station a couple hours outside London.
The solitude and meditative nature of that experience is what I strive for. Perhaps it’s an aversion to the trappings of a life, now, deeply intertwined with the public and virtual society. But I find that the narrative of ‘adventure’ and road trip has found a place within the hearts of very many people living so connected to a virtual and fabricated space. It’s also introduced me to a wonderful team of creatives looking to create work far outside their homes.
Here’s a shot from Iceland that I was able to drag some friends to. Far outside Reykjavik on the black sands of the southern coast.
And another couple from earlier this year just outside Santa Barbara, California.
Even now, the work I create focuses upon the landscape and the journey to the chosen space. There and back again.
All images courtesy Cole Sprouse