CAM KIRK TURNED AN OLD CHURCH INTO A TRAP HOUSE FOR A PHOTOGRAPHY EXHIBIT ABOUT GUCCI MANE
Cam Kirk, photos by Evan Rodgers
The last year has been crazy for Atlanta photographer Cam Kirk. He’s gone from a familiar presence in the city’s rap scene, tagging along with artists like Gucci Mane and Future, to one of its foremost documentarians. He’s had photos published in magazines like FADER and XXL, he helped with filming on our own Noisey Atlanta video series, he’s held a gallery show in Atlanta and published a book of his photography, and this spring he went on tour with Young Thug and Travis Scott.
Now he’s preparing his most ambitious project yet, a one-day-only show in East Atlanta called “Trap God” and dedicated, naturally, to Gucci Mane, the Trap God himself. The show will feature never-before-seen photos of Gucci, but that’s just part of the attraction. Kirk is putting the show on in a converted church, which still has original church elements like pews and an altar but also has been reworked in places as a mock trap house, complete with security cameras and a stove for cooking crack (an earlier plan to throw the show in an actual trap house was derailed when that house was raided by police). Actors will wander the space to bring it to life and explore the full meaning of the Trap God duality: While lots of emphasis is put on the “trap” part of Gucci’s story, less attention is usually given to the religious implications of being a trap god. Kirk’s installation, which includes someone playing the role of a pastor with a gun, makes those undertones clear. Gucci, of course, is basically a god in Atlanta, and his music is both popular and wildly influential.
The show is free with an RSVP, and it’s one day only, May 30, in Atlanta, from 3 to 7 PM (people interested in going can RSVP for the location at email@example.com). Kirk, who’s tall and friendly and eager to chat about Atlanta rap, stopped by our office recently to share some thoughts on the exhibition and the enduring appeal of Gucci Mane himself.
Noisey: You called this a representation of a fantasy, and definitely part of the allure and popularity of this music is that the imagery is a kind of fantasy. That’s something you play a part in as a photographer. What do you think it is about the idea of the trap that draws people in?
Cam Kirk: I don’t know why, but I guess it’s just naturally we’re attracted to things that are bad, the evils of the world.
What do you think Gucci means to Atlanta at this point?
What Gucci means to the world at this point. I think the world is starting to acknowledge his impact, with artists like Makonnen and Fetty Wap coming out and saying their influences are Gucci. Artists like Young Thug and Scooter keep his name relevant and hot. I think it’s really dope that people can see his legacy and the impact that he’s had because he’s one of the most genuine guys that I’ve ever worked with, in terms of just building other people up without necessarily looking for anything in return. Just really having respect for other people’s craft, other people’s talent, and stuff like that.
So I think it’s dope now that people are starting to see the offspring of his movement—artists like the Migos and Thug and Scooter. Now people are having to respect the business side and the eye for talent that Gucci has as well. Just the influence he’s had on so many artists. Now it’s almost impossible for you to not give him his credit as one of the true kings of Atlanta because everybody that comes out of Atlanta passes through him. And he’s been such an underground legend—not so much commercialized—but I think it’s dope that now he’s being elevated into this like iconic figure. I see a lot of people putting him on T-shirts. I see a lot of paintings of him lately. It’s just a thing where he’s getting glorified, and I think he deserves it. I think he’s put in a lot of work and has put a lot of people on unselfishly.
What do you think you learned as a photographer from that period?
A lot of the photos I got were like secret almost. That’s how I started the whole brand I have now where I take a lot of candid photos of artists. It kind of originated at that time because at that time I wasn’t confident enough in myself and my brand to just like walk up to Gucci and go ‘hey Gucci, pose for this.’ So if I was in the room with Gucci and I knew I wanted to leave with that picture of Gucci, I didn’t really ask. I had to do it in a way where no one knew.
To this day Gucci hasn’t seen probably 90 percent of the photos I’ve ever taken of him. He actually just found out I had a collection of photos recently. I sent him some photos I had while he’s locked up, and he was kind of going crazy like ‘oh my God, I didn’t even know you captured these moments. I didn’t even know you were taking pictures. I thought you were just videoing or whatever.’ So around that time is when I learned how to be in a room with someone and get those moments without having to interrupt or interfere with their regular day life. That’s the worst thing you can do as a photographer, is throw the vibe off of the room. Especially when they’re creating or they’re working or they’re just being themselves. You don’t want them to feel like the camera is on them because that’s when you don’t get the authentic, raw images.
Being around Gucci—I’m talking everything from Gucci boxing to the famous “Trap God” pictures I have—he did not know I took those pictures until later on. He knew about the “Trap God” one because it became his album cover, but outside of those little looks, he never knew. It’s kind of dope because these are authentic Radric Davis photos, I feel like. All of them aren’t even necessarily Gucci. Some of them are just him smoking, chilling. They’re not him in that element where he’s like ‘I know the cameras are on me, let’s turn up.’
What are your future photography plans?
What I want to do more with photography moving forward is step into the art world of it and kind of bring hip-hop more into the art world. I want to keep that going as part of my brand, as someone who’s going to drop these images in more of an artistic way.
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