Ramblers Bone: Two Photographers Take a Road Trip Across the Western United States


Ramblers Bone is a project by Michael Kennedy and Sean Sullivan about a 5,600-mile journey into the heart of America. The two are sponsored by Wolverine, a boot-making company. Kennedy and Sullivan are no strangers to the American highways. The two are roaming east into the deserts of New Mexico, then through the Rockies, followed by Montana, and ending on the California coast.

We were able to talk to them a bit about their journey, and about the documentation process.

B&H Photo: How did Ramblers Bone come about?

MK: Sean and I have been working on this one for a while. I think it's been about 8 months of planning with Wolverine. The idea for this project really started with the fact that Sean and I used to sit around and trade road stories back in NYC; we both have logged thousands of miles back and forth on the highways. We also had both done some shooting for Wolverine over the years, and were big fans of their 1000 Mile Collection. The project just built organically from there. We really have to give a lot of credit to Christina Vernon at Wolverine, who is the Director of Business development. We've been working very closely with her on this one, and she really had the vision to see the potential in a project like this.

B&H Photo: The bootmaker Wolverine is sponsoring the trip. Do you have any tips for photographers approaching brands for sponsorship?

MK: Mostly, just stick with what you know. With Wolverine, specifically with their 1000 Mile boots, it was just an easy fit. 

SMS: You have to build a relationship with companies like this for a while—it doesn't just happen overnight.

B&H Photo: The American Road trip has been a popular source of inspiration for photographers over the years. What draws you to making photographs on the road?

SMS: It's the constant changing environment, always moving, seeing new things. It's the great American Road Trip; we all need to see this to get out there.

MK: For me it has less to do with being a photographer, and more with just being interested in exploring. It blows my mind how many people tell me they've never been west of Ohio, but they've been all over Europe. America is a wild place; people should get out there and see it before the wildness is gone.

B&H Photo: What cameras are you taking on the road? Do you find you have a go-to camera while on the road?

SMS: Contax T2, Leica R3, and Canon Mark 5D II.

MKL: Mamiya 7, Polaroid SX70 SE, Polaroid SX70 Sonar, and Canon 5D Mk II. I am never without my Polaroid SX70.

B&H Photo: What’s it like to travel with a fellow photographer?

SMS: It's fun, it's interesting seeing the different ways we frame up shots. We both shoot all day and then sit down and edit at night, bouncing ideas off each other.

MK: It actually is working remarkably well. Sean and I have worked like this before for companies, basically circling each other shooting at the same time. Like Sean said, it's really interesting to see the different ways two people will see the same thing. You can now click on our names on the sidebar of RamblersBone.com to see each of our views of this trip.

B&H Photo: What’s been the most memorable location you’ve stopped at thus far?

SMS: The drive from Zion to Arches. 

MK: Definitely, 100%. We crossed something called Hell's Backbone, which was one of the wildest roads I've ever been on—literally a road across the spine of a mountain, with no guard rail and a long drop. 

B&H Photo: What tips can you offer young photographers embarking on their own road trip for the first time?

SMS:  Keep shooting, and don't delete. You look at photos differently every time you see them.

MK: Just get out there; don't think about anything else, or what anyone else has done. 

B&H Photo: What’s next for you guys after the road trip?

SMS: Vacation (laughs). I've actually got a few films I have to finish when I get back. 

MK: I've got a solo show of my Polaroids at Clic Gallery in June. Then I am—as crazy as it sounds—contemplating a trip later this summer from San Francisco to New York, across the northern part of the US.

Photos by:
Mikael Kennedy
Sean Sullivan

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of B&H Photo Video Pro Audio