Recalling Nelson Sullivan: The First Ever Vlogger

Nelson Sullivan with a camera

If you think vlogging is a new concept, think again! Many people might be surprised to know that this activity has been around even before the evolution of the internet. It was in the 1980s when Nelson Sullivan known as the very first vlogger used a vlog-like video shooting style. Back then, it was something very unique and many people were not even familiar with this video recording style. Nelson started recording routine videos around his home. Even prior to it, the diary filmmaker Jonas Mekas created some sort of experimental film logs in the 70s. However, the concept of first-person storytelling was put forth by Nelson Sullivan which soon received quite popularity. This style of video recording successfully created an impact.

Early Life & Struggle

Let’s talk about the early life of Sullivan. Born in the year 1948 in South Carolina, he belonged to an upper-middle-class. The vlogging pioneer always wanted to pursue his career in classic music. In 1970, as soon as he graduated from Davidson College in North Carolina, he decided to move to New York and pursue his career as a composer. By the time, he worked at a popular classical music store – the Joseph Patelson Music House (closed as of today). The struggle was hard but worth it! He moved from one apartment to another for the next ten years. Finally, in the year 1980, he bought the duplex located in the Meatpacking District and soon revamped the entire building. The price was absolutely worth it and it became the popular center of scene-makers. It became the central point of performers, artists, and musicians who used to hang out here for hours. At this point, he came up with the idea of videotaping his life.

Nelson Sullivan's duplex in the Meatpacking District

On the Camera

Initially, Sullivan had reasonable handheld video cameras. The very first camera he used was a VHS-loading camera and later upgraded it to a FINEMOVIE8 8mm video camera. He has recorded more than 1,900 hours of videotapes in the subsequent seven years filming himself, his friends, and citizens of New York. He used to record everything that interested him commonly including street festivals, club and house parties, late-night friends’ hangouts, conversations with locals such as taxi drivers, sunset walks, and much more. He even videotaped casual conversations with people on the streets. From unplanned to special moments, he has recorded a lot more part of his life.

Considering the overwhelming interest in New York history and the continuance of pop culture, the work of Sullivan was relatively lesser-known in the past. However, it has received immense recognition in recent times through archival collections and of course the internet. It won’t be exaggerating to say that the way he videotaped his life was art itself. He recorded his daily trips to renowned clubs such as the Pyramid Club and Saint which is incredibly interesting.

The way every detail is recorded makes his work more unique and creative. It has been many years of reality TV, MTV’s The Real World, and social networks presenting more or fewer details of one’s existence. However, the work of Nelson Sullivan was exceptional who have recorded a complete decade of private life. In the era where only a few people had video equipment, he documented 1,900 hours of candid VHS footage which is absolutely an exception. His work includes almost every detail of his routine from hanging out with friends and conversations with artists to hernia operations and everything in between. How we can forget to mention his dog Blackout!

The Legacy Lives On

The death of Nelson Sullivan was shocking to the world. On July 4, 1989, the video artist suddenly died because of a heart attack. Before his death, he had recorded approximately 1,200 hours of video footage of the iconic and heavily glamorized New York's Downtown. After his untimely death, one of the closest and oldest friends Dick Richards and David Goldman collected and saved all of his work. They started to preserve his iconic work and put up every effort to spread it.

5ninthavenueproject channel was the first platform where his videos were archived. Nelson’s work gradually gained recognition through this platform and the followers kept on growing. His work received immense popularity, especially among the younger followers. The unique and interesting personality of Nelson and his original vlog style encouraged millions of viewers from across the world. If we talk about his videos, most of them were incredibly entertaining and considered the most unique masterpiece of queer history. The work of Nelson Sullivan gives us the unique glimpse that nobody can think of in those times. It’s an absolutely wonderful glimpse!

Future of Vlogging

Considering the current digital world, the importance and scope of vlogging are just incredible. It is certainly one of the best first-person storytelling ways to communicate your message and ideas. Started several years ago by Nelson Sullivan, it has become a renowned profession today and an effective marketing strategy for businesses across the globe. This trending form of documenting your lifestyle is becoming mainstream. What makes the work of Nelson stand out is the originality – his work was original in all aspects. There was no fading away from reality or presenting himself like someone else which encouraged many vlogging aspirants to follow a similar approach. Get Real!

Vlogging keeps on building a massive internet community that you might not have imagined ever before. The most renowned networks including Facebook and Instagram have invested millions of dollars. On the other hand, YouTube has seen a growth of about 60% in terms of video watch hours. It won’t be surprising to say that nowadays children are making a great amount of money on YouTube. Many people are doing live streaming on YouTube, Instagram, and other platforms. We would like to say that a common man who videotaped his life and came up with an innovative life documenting style has become the most popular trend of the digital world. Isn’t it amazing?

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