Carson Gilliland, twenty-six, was born and currently lives in Sarasota, FL. From a young age, he spent much of the winter camping and hunting in the sticks of Florida. Drawing on those experiences, his love for the night was born. Floating through construction sites, mobile parks, storefronts, alleyways, parking lots, railroad tracks, his work aims to evoke both the emotional and visual effect that the absence of light has on our perception of reality. It’s during the wee hours of the morning, that he feels most himself, free to make photographs. As the last bits of light bend away, he sets out at dark, spending countless hours in his car, coasting through the shadowed sides of town with minimal human presence but inevitably bear a human trace, a residual record formed in his photographs, quiet and surreal.
I first came across Carson’s work about a year ago and his name always stuck in my head. Maybe that’s because we share the same first name, but who knows. Carson got in touch with me recently and we decided that it was a great opportunity to share his work on Aint–Bad. His newest work, which he has been working on for awhile now, really captured my attention. He calls this body of work, I Need Some Rest. At first glance, these photographs appear as if they shouldn’t have been made. What I mean by this is that the photographer shouldn’t have been have been awake during the times of night that these images were taken. Of course it is terrible to assume that an artist would follow the rules of society and only be awake during daylight hours. Whatever works as they say. The colors and compositions are ones that most people will never see because they are lying comfortably in bed, sound asleep and unaware of this different world that exists at night.
Boy, what a different world it is. When viewing this work I feel like a security guard might pop out and tell me to get the hell out of there, I keep looking behind my chair expecting to see someone watching me. But maybe there wasn’t a single soul around when Carson made these images, no security guard or homeless man asking for a cigarette. One image really stays in my mind; the corner of the brick building with the unlit open sign suggests that there wasn’t anyone even close to this place when Carson was there. Honestly I would be a little spooked if I had been making that image.
It’s strange, but there is something comforting in the loneliness of Carson’s images. It’s as if he is finally presenting us with something that we always knew existed but never got to witness ourselves (always asleep during this other world). Maybe we are just too scared or too lazy to venture out at night. Carson is showing us that the world isn’t such a dark place after the sun goes down. Regardless, what happens between sunset and sunrise will always be a mystery to most. These colors and shades of light will disappear, without fail, when the sun rises and we will wake up in our normal sunlit world. Luckily Carson will be awake capturing these moments for us to view.
Keep it up, Carson, and don’t forget to sleep at least a few hours each night.
To view more of Carson’s work, visit his website.