Photographer: Drugs, Dust and Wanderlust

Brandon Harman is an LA based professional photographer. His clients include American Eagle OutfittersTopo Designs, The Block Magazine and Nasty Gal, to name a few. But apart from his commercial projects, it is his wanderlust-infused images of the open road, his gritty and real portrayals of tattooed musicians and his fascinating attachment to the desert that make his work so alluring.

From the ranch-lands in Northern California where he grew up, to Seattle, New York, LA and beyond, Harman has a way of connecting with his environment and marrying his subjects with their surroundings.

Brandon Harman surfer

Brandon Harman Ranch XWHY magazine

You’ve spent most of your career in the big city. But that’s not where it all began. They say “home is where the heart is” – did you leave yours in the wilds of Northern California?

I draw a lot of inspiration from my experiences growing up in Northern California.  The past few years I’ve been going back to Mount Shasta and photographing the people that live there. I can’t help falling back in love with “Home,” but I also fall in love with all the places I’ve lived and everywhere I visit.  The California desert, NYC nightlife, and Seattle in the 90s will always have a place in my heart. I think it is the combination of my rural roots and urban lifestyle that allows me to really connect with subjects from all walks of life.

Brandon Harman XWHY

What drew you towards photography?

Like every photographer these days I liked taking photos in high school of my friends smoking weed, partying and skateboarding. It wasn’t until a few years later that I realised this was something that I could do for a career.  There was a photographer who came through town to shoot the rodeo, and she showed me Larry Clark’s books Tulsa and Teenage Lust.  Having grown up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, those books were the fist photography books I’d ever seen. I was hooked… I thought, “Holy sh*t, I want to do that.”

Brandon Harman for XWHY

Brandon Harman photographerBrandon Harman himself…

How did you establish yourself in your career?

I don’t even feel like I’m established yet.  I continually try to re-establish myself.  Wherever I’ve gotten so far has been through persistence.

Looking at a back-catalogue of your work is reminiscent of a Kerouac novel – it’s all guitars and the open road.

When I was young I used to sneak out at night to walk through my parents’ orchards in Northern California. I would imagine that if I just kept walking I could go anywhere in the world. I’m addicted to being on the move. I’ll spend all day driving to a remote location in the middle of nowhere to see something new. I have the desire to go a little farther than I did the time before, to see and document the people and places I go. Hopefully I’m sharing this adventure through my photographs, like Kerouac did through his writing.

Brandon Harman open road

Brandon Harman




What is it about the desert?

It’s so extreme out there – emptiness, isolation, the pure heat, the people who live out there. I could never live in the desert because I’m not tough enough, so I constantly want to be there to experience that challenge, even if it’s only for a day.

Who do you find to be the most inspiring people to shoot?

I love shooting my friends, because even though I know them so well, when I look at the shots they always reveal something unexpected.

Brandon Harman model

Brandon Harman XWHY model

Music has clearly been a big influence in your life. How do you marry the worlds of music and photography?

That’s a marriage made in hell. I tried it. I went on a national tour with my friends’ band in 2000, supposedly to shoot, and I ended up partying the whole time and becoming a subject instead of the photographer.  I actually always wanted to be a musician, and I’ve tried playing since I was young. I had a punk band called “The Plague” in the late 80s. It was not good. I really admire musicians, and I shoot a lot of them because it sort of fulfils that rock and roll fantasy that I can never live out.


Which commercial projects are you most proud of?

The shoot I met my girlfriend on 4 years ago. That was a good one.

The Wild West is seeing a bit of a revival in the mainstream. What do you make of this?

My dad was a bullrider, and I am wearing a Stetson hat in the photo you have of me.

Brandon Harman XWHY truck

Quickfire Questions

Favourite camera?

Yashica T4

What’s your next project?

A month in Death Valley

Dogs or chickens?

Chicken dogs

Favourite view in the world?

From the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the view from my deck in Eagle Rock early in the morning.


More of Brandon’s work is available to view on his WEBSITE and BLOG.


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