Since arriving in the rap game back in 2005 with his debut album Trap House (via Big Cat/Tommy Boy), Gucci Mane has worked non-stop to release a myriad of albums and mixtapes. When it comes to rocking the mic, LaFlare speaks on behalf of the block-huggers who could risk it all on any given day.
Most importantly, Gucci has left a mark on the hip-hop culture with his abundance of trap house tales. So much so that Guwop’s homie and camera man, Cam Kirk, decided to put up a Trap God Exhibit in Gooch’s honor.
Kirk, known as the Eye of Atlanta, has been capturing ATL MCs for several years. The Maryland native and Morehouse graduate has worked with artists like Young Scooter, Young Thug and Migos, to name a few. But it was the moments captured with Gucci and the trapper’s legacy that inspired Kirk to create a trap god shrine within a church.
Cam recently came through VIBE HQ to discuss his Trap God exhibit (a one-day-only affair that happened May 30), Gucci Mane’s vision and what Guwop means to the South.
VIBE: Tell us about the exhibit.
Cam Kirk: I wanted to make sure that it was something authentic, at least for Gucci. At the end of the day, it’s my work but it’s more of a celebration of the legacy that he’s had on my career and the career of others. It’s not about profit or bread. This is just a celebration of his impact on our culture.
What initially inspired you to rep for Gucci like this?
I just got off the Rodeo tour with Travi$ Scott, Young Thug and Metro Boomin’, and [it] was such a big success that it opened my eyes and exposed me to a lot of new cities and people. That inspired me to continue what I’m doing [and to] take it to the next level. So many people know me from my work from dealing with trap artists in Atlanta and I have so many photos of Gucci Mane that I’ve never released so I thought this was the perfect time to let this catalog of work loose.
To turn a church into a trap house is dope. What sparked the idea?
Originally, I was going to do a typical gallery. After talking to my partners more about it, I was like, ‘It’d be crazy if I actually did it at a trap house.’ That’s kind of the way the thought evolved. I had a homie [who] had a crib that kind of resembled a trap house so I called him and he was with it. I fell in love with the idea. The week before I was going to announce the event, that crib got raided on some real trap house sh-t.
Damn. So what happened next?
I ended up finding an abandoned church in the middle of East Atlanta so it’s like the perfect elevation of the idea I had before. This embodies the whole trap god theme. You getting a god, church feel. At the same time, you getting a trap feel. You go on one side of the room and it’s pews, alters, stained glass windows and over this whole door, it’s literally crib-old stoves so I’m like this is the perfect environment to really embody the fantasy of where a trap god would really live—where Gucci would really live.
LRG was behind the event. How’d you link with them?
I’ve actually done some photography work with them on some past collections. Working with Gucci, I knew he had connections with LRG. Since he’s behind bars, he’s not available to make decisions about his brand so I wanted to make sure that I stayed true to values or people that he vibe and connect with. There’s been a ton of brands that have reached out trying to do stuff with the images I got but I wanted to make sure that I aligned myself with brands that represented him and had his best interests in mind.
You used to work with Young Scooter. Is that how you met Gucci?
Yeah, I got with Gucci by working with Young Scooter. Before I focused on photography, I did more video work, video blogs and followed artists around. I used to follow Scooter from when “Colombia” first came out to his incarceration. When he linked with Gucci, I was there through that whole transition. I got to link with Gucci early and he was one of the first people that respected my craft, even as a low-level photographer. At that time, I was shooting with a $500 camera. It was nothing crazy but he still valued my art and me, and even took the time to know my name—communicate with me with respect. Not like certain other artists I’ve worked with at that time where you’re just considered a cameraman. That’s how I kind of got connected with him and I just took advantage of that. The time I was able to spend with him, I got some good photos. I just knew that they were worth something. Throughout his incarceration, he’s become a bigger icon, which kind of happens when people can’t get in touch with you and idolize you at another level. Right now, he’s at the peak of his icon status. I see him on t-shirts all day, people making socks with his face on it. I’m giving the people a chance to see him.
When was the last time you talked to him?
I talked to him a couple months back. He called me from jail. The funny thing about these photos—because I was such a beginner photographer and I was just working my way in the door—a lot of times, I didn’t really feel comfortable or confident to come up to Gucci and be like, ‘Pose for this picture or do this.’ It kind of helped me develop my style. A lot of my work isn’t staged or propped. The artists aren’t paying attention. It’s kind of like in the moment. Because when I used to be around Gucci, I used to sneak the photos that I got. I didn’t ever want to overstep my boundaries and be like, ‘Yo Gucci, look at me.’ A lot of shots I got are really in the cut. He don’t even know. I would say 95 percent of the photos I ever took of him, he had no idea until recently. He reached out to me from jail. Since he’s been in jail, I was promoting a lot of his photos. I was just trying to keep his name alive and promote his brand. A lot of people were contacting him in jail like, ‘This kid, Cam, got some fire photos of you.’ So he hit me like, ‘Send me some photos.’ I sent him like 10 photos and he was going crazy like, ‘Oh my God. I didn’t know you captured these moments.’ He was like, ‘When I get out, I need you everywhere with me.’
What’s the most memorable moment you shared with Gucci?
We was on a tour bus to Miami and he just asked me to pass him something like, ‘Hey Cam, can you pass me that thing?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh sh-t, he knows my name.’ Like I said, I’ve worked with people before that never knew my name. I’ve never had an interaction with Gucci to even be like, ‘Yo, my name is Cam.’ He must have really took the time to be like, ‘Yo, who’s the guy? What’s his name? It’s Cam?’ That meant so much to me because this guy comes across so many people. The respect was there.
Sometimes rappers can seem like they have huge egos, but Gucci doesn’t appear to be the type.
We’ve had conversations where he’ll tell me that my work is fire and keep working. Before he went to jail, me and Metro Boomin’ used to go to the studio, just us three kickin’ it. He used to give Metro a lot of advice and really look out for us, and give us a little money when we need it.
Word on the street is that Gucci holds Atlanta together.
He’s almost like a godfather to a lot of people. Gucci has personally changed the lives of a majority of the stars coming out of Atlanta right now. Now that I’m doing this gallery, I’m going through old photos like, ‘Damn, that’s Young Thug. Damn, that’s Young Dolph.’ Even the other day, I was looking through photos and I saw Young Gleesh with us in the studio and I’m like, ‘Damn, this n-gga really had the vision.’ I remember the day we shot the Trap God photo, that was Bankroll Fresh on the song with him so [Gucci] knew all this stuff ahead of time. Now, all of the biggest artists out of Atlanta filtered through him during that time—Migos, Scooter, Thug, Young Dolph, Bankroll Fresh—all of them literally came up under his wing. He not only kept and brought people together but he changed the lives of people who needed it. He never was scared to put people on. I owe a lot of my career to just being around each other and the little stuff he did for me. I know he never had a problem letting you rock the chain. He ain’t even have to wear nothing. He always elevated his artists to the same level as him. Scooter would come to the shows with us. It’s two hundred people there and we got Gucci with us, tour bus and everything. He was always unselfish.
Is there a difference between the Gucci in-studio versus the one outside of it?
He’s in the studio literally all day so it’s really no difference. He has his own studio in East Atlanta. He’s really a workaholic, knocking out six, seven tracks a day. That’s where a lot of artists today get that from. Thug has hundreds of tracks. Future got hundreds but they get that from being around him. That man works 24-7. He’s a dude that never lets up. I’m happy now that people see [that] through unfortunate circumstances. I feel that he had to go to jail for people to value his legacy and brand.