For photographer Erin Sullivan, "making the bed" has recently taken on a whole new meaning. "I think this one is going to be a little messy," she laughed, as she poured sugar into a pile on a bedsheet.
With just a few mounds of sweetener, a little trial and error, and some creative camera positioning, Sullivan made her bed into the setting for the "Sugar Sand Dunes." It's a scene reminiscent of New Mexico's White Sands, a place she photographed in person last spring.
"I love travel, and I love the outdoors with my whole soul," said Sullivan. "It is what I chose as a career for a reason: I love this world."
Known online as Erin Outdoors, Sullivan makes her living as a travel photographer. But when COVID-19 hit, all of her far-flung gigs dried up.
"So, you're a travel photographer who can't travel; how did you adapt?" asked correspondent Conor Knighton.
"I started thinking about how I could stay creative, and I decided to challenge myself to create tiny adventure scenes out of household objects."
Soon, mushroom groves, spaghetti swamps, and broccoli forests were sprouting up around her Los Angeles apartment. Some scenes, like "Tinfoil Lake," look as if they could be actual locations.
Others, like "Great Pancake Canyon," are more obviously fanciful. But boy, if only a place that that were real …
Sullivan said, "I'm really trying to communicate a feeling more than a literal place. A feeling of wonder or awe, or adventure, or calm."
"As an outdoor photographer, you're often at the mercy of nature," said Knighton. "You're waiting for the perfect lighting; you're waiting for that wildlife to walk into frame. What's that change been like, where you are now the architect of this natural world?"
"I try to sit and really brainstorm what I'm going for, and get clear on that, sketch it out, and then set things up, so that I don't get overwhelmed with the possibilities, 'cause there are infinite possibilities with this project."
For proof of those possibilities, just search for the hashtag #OurGreatIndoors on Instagram. Sullivan encouraged her followers to upload their own attempts.
A chocolate bar canyon from Andres Garaym of Ecuador ...
A "hot orange balloon" floating over a field of leafy greens from Alberto Libardoni of Italy …
Indianapolis-based photographer Michael Durr fashioned a beach scene in his living room.
Someday soon, Sullivan will be back in nature again. Until then, this bout of quarantine-inspired creativity has helped her stay connected to what matters most in photography: The best images of the outdoors, real or simulated, are meant to make you feel something inside.
"Giving people that moment of feeling transported, or maybe feeling hopeful, or maybe being reminded of the beauty in the world, that gives me a lot," she said.
For more info:
- Erin Outdoors (Erin Sullivan)
Story produced by Aria Shavelson. Editor: George Pozderec.