14 February 2017

Photos To Make You Feel Something

Brandon McClain, aka Eat Humans captures images that ooze a sense of abandoned youth, complimented by a cozy embracing of all things weird. His eerily idyllic shots are the curious and the cool, the disturbing and the beautiful, the lost and the found; they serve as juxtapositions that include trees as much as technology and trash as much as gold teeth. The photographer spoke to me about everything from his process and the emotion that a mere photograph can evoke, to how older photographers getting mad about new waves of artists is like Gucci Mane being mad at the hundreds of trap rappers who came after him because they “stole/reinvented his style”.


A small town in Georgia is where Brandon started out, playing about with hand-me-down cameras and finding himself having to manipulate and position his unconvinced friends into his compositions. Brandon later found himself part of a more creative circle that was just as weird, if not weirder than he, thanks to his close friend Ashley Romero – said circle was none other than Awful Records. Rich Po Slim officially asked Brandon to be part of the Atlanta hip-hop collective in New York and before he knew it, he was shooting Father, Playboi Carti and KeithCharles Spacebar on the Cry $$$ Tour, which he described to us as “easily the funniest” month of his life. That’s easy to believe when you watch his vlogs documenting everything from Carti and Ian Connor’s rapturous rappor, to all kinds of Slug Christ shenanigans.

Lately, Brandon’s been traveling alone, of course documenting his travels with his trusty camera but he’s committed himself to old-school film, shunning the ease of the digital process for the time being. After all, he tells us “nothing beats the feeling of getting back a roll with some real gems on it”.


When did you start taking photos and how did it evolve into a career for you?
It all started with a Facebook status that I posted about 4 years ago, “what do I want to do with my life?”. My Uncles Billy and Bobby both replied with a simple answer that changed my life, “You’re an artist”. From that moment forward, my life completely changed. I felt like I’d never figure it out at this point honestly, but that reply made something click in my brain and things became clearer than ever before. 

I immediately started looking at art on Tumblr and found myself mostly being drawn to photographs. I expressed this interest in photography to my mother and she informed me that my Aunt Robin was formerly a photographer, so I gave her a call. Luckily, she had a few cameras that she wasn’t using and she sent me two film cameras and that was the beginning of my adventure with photography. I was honestly afraid at first because I had virtually no experience taking photographs, so most of my first rolls, I’ve still never developed to this day. I tried out school for two semesters at the Art institute and decided to drop out and wing it. I was still working at Kohls at the time, so I’d just leave for work a few hours early and take photos and get them developed at Walgreens. Eventually, I bought my first digital camera from my friend Justin Morris, and the rest just happened as I continued to shoot every day with my friends.

Is there a particular image that you’re so fond of that you wish you’d taken?
There are plenty of photos that I love, but none that I wish I took. I appreciate other people’s artwork without comparing it to my own now. But if I had to choose to be one artist, I love pretty much every photograph William Eggleston has ever taken, I couldn’t pick just one.


“Eat Humans” is quite the sinister choice of name, where did it come from?
The name Eat Humans came long before my photography career actually, it came from the day I created my Twitter. My friend Brianna convinced me that I should share my thoughts and ideas on social media and Eat Humans was the first thing that came to mind, strangely enough. It was actually something weird like @3At_HVmAn5 at first, and then I began to like Twitter and take it more seriously, so I changed my name to @eathumans. And a few years later I decided to make an Instagram and no one had the name @eathumans, so I just stuck with it.

What’s your favourite of the images you’ve taken and why?
I was in Canton, Georgia exploring with my friend Justin Morris one day and we found this broken down bus, and I knew I had to take a photograph of it. I didn’t want to just take a photo of the bus itself though, I wanted to add a human presence to it somehow. I just happened to have a bag of balloons in my backpack, so I asked Justin to climb in the bus and hold a red balloon out of the window and I took a photograph of that. And at the time I didn’t have my own digital camera, so he let me use his Mark III for the first time, and I was super stoked. That was the proudest I’ve ever felt of something I created, especially because at the time I had always wanted to use that camera.


How did you come to be part of Awful Records?
It started with Ashley Romero and me becoming very close friends and hanging out all the time. Whenever I had time off from work, I’d go to the city and meet Ash at little 5 or somewhere lame because I knew nothing about the city at the time, I was still living in Woodstock. We’d just go shoot, or get pizza, and talk about nerdy shit because we’re both nerdy and weird as fuck. Eventually, she started inviting me over to the Barrio (Archi’s apartment, the Awful headquarters at the time), and that’s when I started meeting everyone. I was super shy at first because I’m awkward, and I really didn’t have many creative friends at the time, so it was new to me. I didn’t even know they made music at first to be honest, I just strangely felt like I belonged somewhere for the first time, which was also a very new thing to me. 

Eventually, I caught on to their music, and I just had my camera on me all the time, and would just take pictures of everyone whenever I was around. This was actually my first time really shooting people as themselves, because before I’d just make my old friends do a bunch of weird shit. The chemistry was there from the beginning because they were they only group of people just as weird as me, if not weirder. I started going to shows and taking photos and eventually started traveling with everyone. My first time going to New York was with Awful and that’s when Rich Po Slim officially ask me to be a part of the Awful family.


I’m sure there’s been quite a few but what’s been the funniest or most memorable tour moment with Awful?
The Cry $$$ Tour was easily the funniest month of my life, picking one story is so difficult. But the first one that comes to mind is the wrestling match between Keith Charles and Archibald Slim. When we were in Denver, we stayed at this beautiful Airbnb and pretty much didn’t leave the house the entire time except for the show. One night, Archi and Keith got super drunk and wrestled for what seemed like hours, and just wouldn’t give it up until we all knew who won. It’s still debatable to this day, but personally, I think Keith won. Lol

What 3 words would you pick to describe Atlanta’s rap scene?
Do It Yourself


You’ve spoken before about the imagination and its ability to create something truly unique out of the ordinary. Do you think that imagination is something that can be strengthened with practice and consistent creative challenge or do you see it more as a “you have it or you don’t” kind of thing?
I believe it’s something you can work on and strengthen but obviously, some people are born with natural abilities. The great thing about art is that skill doesn’t always make a great artist, especially in today’s art world. It’s more about expression in my opinion. Some of my favorite art looks like little kids made it, the type of art where people say “anyone can do that”. That’s the best part, I don’t think anyone should be discouraged from making art because they lack skills or “creativity”. Everyone has something unique to offer, it’s up to you if you want to share it with other people or keep it to yourself.

Are your images conceptualized before you shoot or is you approach more one of spontaneity and shooting in the moment? Or perhaps a bit of both?
Always spontaneous, and it sometimes makes me insecure, honestly. I usually just have a bunch of random props that I thrift or find around the house and try to go make something interesting with them. It’s worked for me well so far, but I also feel like other people have much more professional approaches to the way they shoot and that’s where I get a little insecure. Everyone has their own creative process and that no one should feel bad about the way they create. So I just keep shooting and staying on my path, I know it’ll lead me to where I need/deserve to be.


Art critics debate whether photography can be considered a legitimate art form due to the fact that anyone can take a photo – although not anyone can necessarily take a good photo. Assuming that you do, what is it about photography that you think gives it more than enough status to be categorized as art?
Photography is definitely a form of art. Sure, photography is more user-friendly now than it has ever been, and there’s “so much competition out there”, but like you said, not everyone can take a good photograph. Not everyone can take a photograph that makes your jaw drop, not everyone can take a photograph that makes you look at your surroundings differently, makes you pay attention to the little details. Not everyone can take a photograph that makes you cry, or frightens you, or gives you chills, haunts you. 

I’ve experienced so many emotions looking at photographs over the years. Photography is by far my favorite form of art. I am a fan and a student of photography before anything else. There’s nothing better to me than opening one of my favorite photographer’s books and losing myself in how they view the world.



Do you think that platforms like Instagram lessen the weight of the term “photographer” or is it a positive thing that everyone has this virtual space to do their thing?
Depends on the viewer. Instagram and social media have created a new type of photographer, and I don’t necessarily believe that’s a bad thing. Some people just like looking at photographs and don’t take it that seriously. Then there are people like me who are super passionate about it. I personally don’t want to be labeled as an Instagram photographer, I want to be represented in galleries one day, and have plenty of photography books published, and do workshops one day. But for some people they just want to take photos and share them with their friends online, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. You can’t be bitter about it, you just have to stay in your lane. That’s like Gucci Mane being mad at the hundreds of trap rappers who came after him because they “stole/reinvented his style”. Gucci is so successful because he welcomed the newcomers with open arms, and became the father of the new sound. Older photographers who get mad or upset about new waves of artists will just seem bitter and outdated unless you’re like the GOAT and no one can tell you shit.

Can you tell us all about your recent adventures?
My recent adventures are the most important ones of my life so far. This is an important time in my life, a time where I’m truly discovering myself and what it is I enjoy about life. I’m traveling by myself for the first time, and I bought a nice little point and shoot before I left so that I can document everything I do and see. It’s been such a moving experience and something that is still ongoing as we speak. I’m back in Atlanta currently working on a documentary and some personal photo projects, and then I’m hitting the road again.