The original digital Millennial was actually born in 1948.
Nelson Sullivan missed the defining generational cut off by half a century, but in the grainy days of VHS tapes and Tower Records, he snapped thousands of hours of insta-videos and YouTube rants – before they were invented.
YouTube is where I discovered Nelson talking to the camera from 1989. He narrated every step of his afternoon that began in an almost skyscraper-less Midtown and ended in a Buckhead parking garage. He was basically snap-chatting his shopping trip with his friend, RuPaul (who wasn't famous yet).
Sullivan was a master, rarely leaving the frame other than to occasionally spotlight his friends. Nelson framed himself so perfectly, with camera moves of a pro in a clunky analog world. He captured it all solo, handheld without an iphone or a selfie stick. His camera was as big as a shoe box.
I tried to catch glimpses of his clunky camcorder in reflections that flash on screen, but he mostly points the camera at his main subject – himself. Typical Millennial.
Time has transformed his ordinary day-to-day into an extraordinary preservation of 1980s architecture, fashion, culture and commerce.
In the video you’ll spot glimpses of a pre-renovation Lenox Square Mall (looks bigger then), an 80s Macy’s storefront (looks 80s then), and a dozen other stores lost in time, but found in Nelson’s video.
Other posts chronicle Atlanta nightlife, a trip to a “Big Star” grocery store and even his mole removal. Nothing is off limits for this Millennial mindset in a Baby Boomers’ body.
Nelson filmed the bulk of his analog selfie shots in New York City. His wikipedia page states he collected 1900 hours of footage and planned to convert it into a cable access show.
He died of a heart attack at age 41 just three days after quitting his day job to chase that dream. Born too soon, died too young – before the social network.
Nelson sought fame that was not yet obtainable in the eighties. Scroll ahead to 2016, and he surely would have been a YouTube star.
In a way - he is... in the 1989 images still streaming decades after his death.
Jeremy Campbell is an ATLien, storyteller, traveler... & often all three at once.