I recently spoke with NYC-based photographer Mikael Kennedy, who, along with photographer Sean Sullivan, has set out on a road trip to photograph the Pacific Northwest for a project they're calling Ramblers Bone. Sponsored by Wolverine, the two are living my dream; sleeping in open spaces and stunning landscapes, holding Polaroids of Allen Ginsberg, and watching wild horses run are only a few of the delights they've encountered. They were just leaving Denver when I talked to Mikael on the phone about the project, Dazed and Confused, a lack of guardrails, and much more.
I'm honored to be one of the sites, along with The GQ Eye and Cold Splinters, to which Ramblers Bone has sent exclusive photos (the photo directly below is of Southwestern Colorado). Read on to see the shots and to find out why you should become as obsessed with Mikael and Sean's journey as I am.
CW: For how long are you on the road?
Mikael: Our final count is twenty-eight or twenty-nine days. We just crossed our halfway point yesterday; we're fourteen days in, I believe (more after the jump).
And for how long did you plan the project?
About a year ago Sean and I started talking about this one. We talked to Wolverine, who's sponsoring our trip, and then it took about eight months of planning to get it up and running.
The illustration of Ramblers Bone is awesome.
An old friend of mine, Jenna Mallett, did it. She’s pretty wild. We’d seen a painting she’d done of a church in New Mexico and we loved it. We knew we wanted something similar.
Why The West?
One of the original reasons we wanted to do this is the epic-ness of the American landscape. The West used to be something America was known for; we wanted to get back out into that territory, landscapes that you look at and immediately know are in America. I also think there’s something about the Wild West that still exists today: it’s a little rough around the edges, and that’s something we were looking for.
Have you found people who are rough around the edges, too? People who are inspiring?
We've been mostly focusing on getting out into the wildness of America, getting as far out as we can. But we have found some people; we have a shot of this junk shop in Utah, in the middle of nowhere, and the woman who owns it has people coming through from all over. It’s one of the craziest places I’ve ever been to. Things are stacked everywhere, but you can ask her where something is and she will know. And in Boulder we went to the Beat Bookshop; we hung out there for a couple of hours yesterday because the guy had Polaroids of Allen Ginsberg and pictures of himself with Ken Kesey. He even has a picture taken and signed by Allen Ginsberg. You could ask the owner where any book was and he’d say, “Oh, it’s right here.”
Those places sound like Liberty Tool Company, up in Liberty, Maine. Have you been there?
No, but I would like to go. I saw the video on A Continuous Lean. I’d love to see it.
It's in this great area of Maine with a bunch of amazing town names: Liberty, Union, Hope, Friendship, Unity...
That's awesome. Speaking of town names, we’ve been tweeting the names of towns we roll though. At one point, we were driving this road through a town called Devil's Backbone, or maybe Hell's Backbone. We're on the ridge of a mountain with no railings. There are thousand foot drops on either side and I’m yelling, “where the fuck are the guardrails!?”
What’s been your favorite place to shoot so far?
I think crossing Utah. The entire stretch of southern and middle Utah looks like the moon. Zion National Park was amazing; I’d never been before, and I’ve been to most parks in the States. I keep meeting all these people in their 60s and 70s who are volunteering at the national parks, and they’re always really excited when young, interested people come visit. Because in the '50s it was a huge push, you know, "America, visit the parks!" But it’s not something people think of now. Now it’s Cancun or Miami for vacation; young people are not getting into the landscapes that were put aside by people fifty, sixty years ago. I love it; I've crossed the country between fifteen and twenty times now, because you know--and this is the theory I’ve put out when I do my gallery shows--I have around sixty years till I’m dead so I might as well do everything I can during them.
What are you shooting with?
A Canon 5D, and everywhere I go I always have my Polaroid with me.
What are you listening to on the road?
Ahh. Right now we’re blasting the Last Waltz soundtrack [the ultimate road trip album by The Band, with every amazing musical guest you could think of--a personal favorite], and Austin McCutchen, a country singer who traveled with us for a bit, gave us a track by Jonathan Wilson. It is amazing. The music we’re listening to fits with the landscape we're in. And of course we're listening to a lot of Neil Young. The good old stuff.
When you drive back into a city you should put the Drive soundtrack on.
That's a good idea. We had Chris Black come out and run around with us for a couple days. As we rolled into the airport I put on "Tuesday’s Gone," by Leonard Skynard.
That’s one of my favorite songs. It’s in Dazed and Confused, the movie that arguably is what got me through high school.
It’s also a good song to drop someone off at the airport to. And yes, Dazed and Confused is one of the best movies ever. Of all time. I watched it at least once every other day for the last month of college.
"I took this shot right after getting off the phone with you," Mikael told me in an email.
"And this one soon after."
"Country Singer/Drifter Austin McCutchen wearing Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots. We picked him up in LA then dropped him on the strip in Vegas; we are hoping to reconnect with him in SF to ride down the coast with us."