“Let’s just do something big.”
It’s a simple enough premise. Last year, after being stuck in quarantine like the rest of us, this is what 27-year-old videographer Suresh Gordon wanted to do. So, he tapped his close friend Nigel Sylvester, a professional BMX rider, who is also known for his 2018 Air Jordan 1 collaboration and Kith lookbook cameos.
On this particular day, he was going to star in Gordon’s latest creation. Well, co-star at the very least. Some might say he was upstaged by the item he was wielding, the infamous $500 flamethrower released by Elon Musk’s Boring Company in 2018. The setup to the final scene featured Sylvester bunnyhopping on a BMX bike around an empty lot in Queens in a pair of Travis Scott x Air Jordan 6s to the soundtrack of Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA.” As the beat changes and night falls, the “big” moment begins. Sylvester, flamethrower in hand, approaches a silver Mercedes-Benz SLR. Seconds later, he’s hanging out of the multimillion dollar car’s open butterfly door as it speeds down the road. Sparks fly from a sulfur pad attached to his hand as it drags across the pavement. The final image is Sylvester, back turned to the camera, with his fist raised in the air. When it was released five months later in September 2020, protests against racial injustice were happening across the country. Sylvester’s raised fist symbolized something more. It captured that moment in time, which is what Gordon strives to do with his videos. It’s the reason he loves the medium so much.
As the shoot wrapped that night, Sylvester actually wasn’t completely sold on the idea yet. Gordon describes him as a perfectionist who is very particular about his creative vision, but he knew that when he edited everything together he would be able to change his mind. When Gordon showed him the finished product the following day, he did just that.
“That’s my baby right there,” says Gordon over Zoom. “I feel like when I have a house, I’m going to get a screen that just plays that video.”
This video is one of Gordon’s favorites to date, but he’s been behind the lens of other big projects. He’s worked closely with major companies like Mercedes-Benz on commercials, and rappers like ASAP Ferg to capture behind the scenes moments on video shoots. He’s documented the fast-paced environments of major events like Paris Fashion Week and Kanye West’s Sunday Service shows. And most recently he shot the campaign for Aleali May’s “Califia” Air Jordan 1 Zoom CMFT collab that dropped in late April. The collab was an homage to her alma mater, Hillcrest Drive in Los Angeles, where she spent her formative years as a member of its drill team.
“It really came together nicely. It was fairly quick. The shoot probably took an hour or two. Yeah, we really just re-enacted a scene from high school,” says Gordon who filmed most of the campaign in the school’s dimly lit gymnasium. Everything was shot in reverse order, so until the final video debuted, May and Gordon were the only people who fully understood what was happening. “At the time, no one on set realized what was going on. Me and Aleali just knew. We had the biggest smiles as it was coming together.”
He met May back in 2019 when he shot her in EA’s Need for Speed racing game campaign. Sylvester, who also appeared in the ads, recommended him for the job. He shot May in Los Angeles before flying to Miami to capture the rest of the footage. She was so impressed with the outcome that she invited him out to Paris to shoot her during her time at Paris Fashion Week later that same year. Gordon says his first trip to Paris unlocked even more connections for him.
“You meet a lot of people. It’s Paris. These people are traveling from all over, so we’re all in a huddle. Everyone is going to every show. Everyone is running around,” says Gordon. “You keep running into the same people. It doesn’t matter who it is. Even J Balvin, such a big artist, you can’t just walk past someone after you have seen them eight times. We’re all just saying hello to each other. It’s human nature. That opened doors because it became somewhat of an automatic relationship. By the end of Fashion Week, everyone knows each other. I love that aspect.”
Working in a high school with May made Gordon think back on his own experience. He shot many of his first photos and videos in the hallways of Valley Stream Central in Hempstead, New York, while working for the school newspaper. He would photograph sporting events, ceremonies, or just document the daily goings-on of the school’s student body. Before that, he says as a kid he would carry a JVC camcorder around his house filming his family in Montego Bay, Jamaica, which is where he lived prior to moving to Queens in 2010. Seeing the reaction the videos and photos gave people is how he knew that videography was something he wanted to eventually pursue full time.
“Since I was a kid, I just realized capturing moments, replaying it to people, I see the joy. I just really love it, that sense of getting back that time. I love to capture that time,” says Gordon. “That’s where it started, just filming my family around the house. I had a little camcorder, and I was always on it. That was my thing.”
After high school, Gordon fused two of his passions: videography and cars. He began taking photos of one of his friend’s BMWs and different exotic cars around the city. Eventually, he would start to attend and shoot annual events like goldRush, a cross-country rally where luxury car owners come together to travel to major cities. He transitioned outside the automotive world eventually, attending events like Pharrell’s Something in the Water festival in Virginia Beach or a day party hosted by Virgil Abloh and Drake in Miami, and creating video recaps that showed the event from his perspective. Along the way, he says each place has presented its own networking opportunities that have helped him gain new friends and clients.
One of the biggest connections he has made thus far is with celebrity jeweler Greg Yuna. They met while Gordon was editing for a production company that Yuna was working with at the time. Yuna eventually discovered Gordon was behind his edits and tapped him to shoot and edit his personal images. They still work together. Gordon mentions a specific shoot day in New York’s Diamond District where he only had 15 minutes to capture the perfect shots of Yuna amidst all of the crowds and commotion on the block. Other times, it was even quicker, 50 seconds to be exact, because he had to shoot Yuna in the middle of the street between stop lights.
“There are no boundaries to this. It’s like painting. It’s like art. I have to just freestyle, stop following the settings. That’s when my look came into play or the feeling of what I’m trying to portray came into effect,” says Gordon. “That’s the learning curve, just freestyle.”
While Gordon has never formally gone to school for videography, he says he’s always studying his craft. In the beginning, he was trying to follow the “school way” of filming things. As his experience grew, he began to take more calculated risks and establish his signature suspenseful style that “makes the simplest things intense” with a mix of overhead drone shots of beautiful cityscapes, quick cuts, hype music, and some of the most expensive cars that money can buy. When it comes to inspiration, Gordon says one of his biggest is Hype Williams. He often watches his work in preparation of his next shoot.
“How he captured different characters and the lighting, a lot of the stories he was telling, I could feel it. I could relate to it. Like I said before, in high school I wanted to show these characters,” says Gordon, who also acknowledges video director Dave Meyers, who directed Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” and Drake’s “Laugh Now Cry Later,” and Director X as other sources he looks to for inspiration. “I feel like [Williams is] really good at creating vibes for every character. Not one character had the same aesthetic. Even in the old music videos, his transitions are just epic. It was just cool. They were outside the box, going through things. I even use that right now as inspiration, going through logos, and just the way he brand places things, it was indirect but marketed. It was good. I loved it. I love the style.”
When it comes to creating, Gordon is a one-man team at the moment. He shoots everything, operates the drone to get wide overhead shots, and edits the final product. For most recap videos, he likes to complete them in under 48 hours. This means he is working around the clock.
“I’m always ready. I try to keep my life simple and minimalistic. If I get a call in an hour, I’m on a plane and I’m there. If it’s a good time, I’m there. I make sure everything’s always packed and organized,” Gordon tells Complex. While he won’t give away all of the tools of the trade, he does say that trial and error is a big part of it. For instance, he tried out 50 different gimbals, a piece of equipment that stabilizes the camera during shooting, before he found one he was comfortable working with. “I live in New York, but anywhere I’m needed, I’m there. There’s no excuse, unless I’m busy working. If I’m not, I’m going. That’s why I probably have one of the quickest turnover times, because as soon as I shoot, I make sure I turnover quickly, because I never know who might call.”
He recalls a particular instance in 2019 when he was shooting at New York Fashion Week. In the middle of it, he got notified that Kanye West was holding Sunday Service in Paris and he had to edit his NYFW project on the flight over.
“I was getting called while I was shooting [Sunday Service] like, ‘Hey, I need this re-edit done.’ I was running out every time the choir went to do something or restage to edit and go back. I’ve edited at dinners. I look crazy, but listen, at the end of the day you’ve got to do what you got to do.”
While he has had a lot of successful shoots, he does say that one of the biggest challenges is being oversold about something that ends up not coming to fruition, which can sometimes take him away from other important projects on his schedule.
“There’s a lot of people that oversell things. There’s a lot of Fyre Festival that I have to go through, a lot. It’s probably 80 percent Fyre Festival and 20 percent success. You know what I mean? It’s a lot of people that, ‘Hey, Drake is going to come. This is going to happen. Michael Jackson’s going to come back and moonwalk,’” says Gordon. “And I go to these places and it doesn’t happen. Damn, I could have been doing whatever I wanted to do and I turned it down because I thought this was going to be the next thing.”
As his career continues to progress, Gordon wants to eventually direct more music videos and collaborate with Williams, Director X, and Meyers, and shoot short films about legends like Jay-Z or Beyoncé. While he’s content working largely independently right now, he acknowledges that surrounding himself with the perfect team is the next step. One thing is for sure, whether solo or surrounded by a vast supporting cast, Gordon’s goal when he gets behind the camera remains the same, just doing something big.
“There is no limit. There’s no new way. There is no right or wrong. It’s art. That’s it.”