Suspension Competition Entry #13 with the information provided by the submitter:


Information about the entry: As a transplant to Southern California, I have remained relatively ignorant of the rich history and immense culture the area holds. A couple of years ago I was hiking in the mountains above Pasadena and was introduced to an abandoned gold mine shaft that was still accessible. I knew from my first encounter that I would be facilitating a suspension there one day.

I was overwhelmed with the idea of climbing into the ground to suspend off the surface. I thought the sheer hypocrisy of it served as the ultimate metaphor for life and the human condition, and almost immediately I was flooded with inspiration of a scene in my head. I figured out quickly how and where I would rig a suspension within the cavernous structure. I could see the layout and the idea behind it all, and I knew there had to be candlelight. Nothing more modern, simply flame.

Los Angeles has a history of wildfires that you can almost plan your calendar around, and unfortunately the following year swept flames into the area of my beloved mine shaft. All plans were put on hold, but I continued to develop the idea and find the right parties interested in making it happen. Some time ago, almost two years now, I was contacted by an anthropology student abroad in Scotland who told me she had a project that focused on how humans use pain for a benefit. She said she wanted to film some of our group suspending for a documentary linked to the project and she would like to perhaps suspend when it was all finished. The fact that she was willing to step over and experience it first hand, not just hide behind the lens was really a convincing factor. We met Cat Hamilton and gave her all access to film whatever she deemed appropriate for her project, and that summer of 2010 a group of us set off to conquer the mine. Shelby Nicole is suspending and Neil Kohanski is the photographer. He shot it all on black and white film in the depths of the mine shaft with nothing more than candlelight. For me this suspension traversed the various fields of what we do and found a commonality. It was definitely inspired and executed as a work of art, there was an element of staging and pre-planning but the majority of it was spontaneous. We didn’t even know at several points in time if we would have to abandon the project any minute and flee. There were many risks and dangers, including the fact that we were suspending somewhere we were not supposed to be. Potential wildlife and backwoods threats were very prevalent. Shelby had her own private reason for wanting the suspension, I had my own artistic inspiration driving me for a specific shot, and in the end we all got what we needed and so much more.

The hike to the mine was rigorous, the environment inside the mine was challenging. In this photo Shelby is approximately an inch or two off the ground. She ended up going just a little higher before finally passing out. We brought her down and she was responsive, but passed out again. At this point we cut her completely free and tried to get her communicating better with us so that we knew her state. We were several miles from help, illegally, in an area that was extremely narrow to get in and out of so we wanted to make sure she was fully recovered before trying to conclude the day.