Sometimes it truly isn’t about the destination, but it’s more about the travels and sights that take your breath away along the way. Brandon Harman’s photos are timeless and capture the perfect connection between nature and people.
He raised road trip photography to a next level and gave us an opportunity to see life from his perspective. In this interview, Brandon talks about his childhood memories and how they shaped him as an artist. He also shares the story behind his latest project and tells us all about his self-published book.
I understand you grew up in Northern California. How did your childhood spent there influence you as a person and as an artist? What are some of your favorite memories?
Growing up on a farm full of open space but not a lot of excitement made me an adrenaline junkie—I think my upbringing ensured a lifetime of thrill seeking and adventure because I felt so at odds with the conservative country life of my town. Yet I was inspired equally by the natural landscape and by sneaking to punk rock shows in San Francisco. I think in some ways I’m still trying to reconcile those two dissimilar interests in photographs.
Your journey of becoming a photographer was really exciting and quite unusual. You wanted to pursue a music career, but then you discovered photography and your life changed in a second. What influenced your decision to change your pursuits? Do you still have a special connection when it comes to music?
I definitely still view music as a huge inspiration to me. I was a music photographer in Seattle in the 90s and being surrounded by the frenetic energy of that scene led me to making photographs that in some way capture the attitude and chaos of that time and place in music. Ultimately I liked being backstage rather than on stage—I like to explore more than I like to perform.
It seems you enjoy being on the road. What is it about these travels that makes you want to document them?
My reason for traveling lies in the title of my self-published book, All Roads Lead to the Mother Lode, which is a phrase I read on a gold mining map that I saw in Northern California. I view traveling and photographing as my own version gold mining. There’s something about the adventure and the promise of something exciting to document that keeps me on the road.
You are very successful at what you do, not to mention you have worked with many popular brands. When did your photography stop being a hobby and became a full-time job, something you do for a living? What has been the greatest challenge you have faced in your career so far?
When you work commercially it’s hard not to lose sight of what you really want to shoot or why you want to make pictures. Luckily my personal work has kept me motivated to create work that’s true to my own point of view, and has made me strong in my perspective regardless of criticism or the current trends.
One of your latest projects is called “The Lost Coast”. Can you tell us the story behind this project? What was the inspiration for this series?
I think the inspiration for that series, and most of my travel work, is to get away for a little bit and reconnect with my wife. When we heard about the Lost Coast as a part of Northern California that’s still wild and largely unaffected by commercialization, we knew it would be our next destination. We enjoy traveling and shooting together as a way of taking a break from the world and being alone with each other.
Among other things you also enjoy shooting portraits. What’s the key to a strong connection between models and photographers? After years of doing this, what would be your advice to someone who is just starting out as a photographer?
My favorite way to shoot people is to try to capture the in-between moments of our interactions. I think I’m able to catch people off guard by keeping them talking, and keeping them comfortable. I'Il try to get them out of their heads and in the moment. My advice for someone who is just starting out is to shoot as much as they can. And shoot film!
Your self-published road-trip book “All Roads Lead To The Mother Load” was quite a success. How did you develop this idea into a great story and an actual book?
I wanted to make a book that felt like a journal of my travels. I had the idea to compile my road trip work into a book out of a desire to see those experiences again in a new way, and to be able to share them with others. I think people are drawn to it because it feels very personal, which was definitely my intention. I wanted it to feel like a diary.
What are the things that drive your creativity? Where do you find the inspiration?
I find inspiration in seeking out the unusual. The fact that there are a lot of strange and chaotic things in this world that I haven’t experienced yet drives me to find them and photograph them.
Where will your next road take you?