Interview by Kayla Fernandez
Caitlin McCann is a badass visual artist based out of Philadelphia. Her film photographs are very in the moment and show that she has a close relationship with her subjects. Caitlin’s overall style has a warm, comforting feel to it; I could look at her photos for hours. I first came across Caitlin’s photography on Instagram around two years ago and have been drawn to it ever since. A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to chat with her in Los Angeles while she was on tour, documenting her buds, Vundabar. See below to read our chat about tour experiences and dream festival lineups.
KF: Who are you and what do you do?
CM: My name is Caitlin and I am a visual artist.
KF: What sparked your interest in photography?
CM: I got into photography around the end of middle school, entering high school. When I first started using a camera I felt like there were things I could capture that I couldn’t with my drawings. Growing up, I would always draw or paint, but I felt limited with my abilities and so the camera gave me some sort of purpose. It’s funny to me how some things just stayed consistent in my life. I recently took a year off from shooting to work on drawings and paintings but now I feel like I have a good balance of it all.
KF: Has traveling helped develop your style?
CM: Traveling in the sense of being on the move has helped developed my style because I try to photograph movement.
KF: I feel like when you capture shots of people on the road they become more vulnerable and they are in a different element from what they are used to.
CM: Yeah, totally! Especially with touring, you are traveling as a unit and a lot of the time you are in a confined space with people. There are a lot of extremes. My friend Brandon and I have talked about how it’s a good way to find out who you love and who you hate. Photographing people on tour, and just traveling in general, pushes people to the extremes and it’s cool to see that come out in photos.
KF: You’ve been photographing your buds, Vundabar for quite some time now. How did you guys meet? And how much has your relationship blossomed?
CM: I was on tour with The Districts in 2015 and Vundabar was opening for them in Boston. We all hit it off backstage. I watched their whole set and it just blew me away. Sometime after that the guys played a show in New York and stayed at my house. We took pictures the next day. After THAT, I asked if I could go on tour with them and here we are three years later doing the same shit.
KF: That’s a great way of meeting lifelong friends. It’s very random and you never know what to expect out of it.
CM: Yeah, this crew of people has been very special. We basically met when were babies. Brandon and Drew were still under 21 at the time. Zack had to leave for a bit but now he’s back and the hole in our hearts is filled. We’ve grown up in a lot of ways over the last few years but the overall bond is still the same, maybe even stronger, at least for me it is, since time has gone by and I’ve realised there’s no one like them.
KF: What is your typical workflow like on the road?
CM: It’s a lot of reading people and going with the flow. It’s very spontaneous. You are constantly around people who want to be alone or not be alone. I just try to feel out the vibe, and see if someone doesn’t want to be photographed during that time. If no one is paying attention or if the lighting is perfect, then I’ll take a picture. There are some days where I don’t take any pictures and some days where I shoot a couple rolls of film.
KF: How many rolls of film do you usually bring on tour?
CM: This tour I only brought fourteen rolls with me but then I had to buy more.
KF: Do develop your own film as well too?
CM: I take it in to get it developed, but then I scan it myself. It’s cheaper and I have more control over the resolution .
KF: Describe a day in the life whether it be on tour or at home.
CM: When it comes to a day in the life on tour, it’s hard but you try to make routines despite constantly being on the move . It’s important to find ways to make yourself comfortable on the road and basically be a chameleon. We usually make coffee runs a priority. Some days you’re in the van all day, some days you have the freedom to explore a city or go on a hike. It’s never the same. At home, I like to get into the routine of wake up, coffee, breakfast, studio. Sometimes I spend the whole day at the studio, other times I can only put in a few hours before I have to go to work (axe throwing!). I’m always trying to find a balance between it all.
KF: Tell us a story behind one of your favorite photos.
CM: It’s this picture of Brandon with his head sticking out of a car window. That was on the first tour that we did together, and we had spent like a week in Texas. It was starting to get WEIRD. . We were leaving Texas to go to New Mexico and had been driving through the night. The photo was taken at like six in the morning after we had just pulled over on the side of the road. We ran under a fence and ended up being chased by cows. We were able to watch the sunrise from the van.
KF: In your interview with Brandon from Vundabar, you mentioned that you don’t photograph live shows anymore. What made you stop?
CM: It just got too repetitive because it felt like I was taking the same photo over and over. When I started touring more, I realized there are things that I value more than just the performance. . The shows make up like 10 percent of the tour and the other 90 percent is whatever you do before and after show time.
KF: I totally get that because when I was shooting a festival not that long ago, I was in the photo pit for three songs. I take so many photos that I know I’m not going to edit.
CM: Exactly! It becomes overwhelming.
KF: I feel like candid pictures on the road are more personal.
CM: It also shows the level of trust. Anyone can get a photo pass to shoot shows these days. Not everyone can be in the van with the band, whether that be because they are confined by other things or maybe the band doesn’t want them on tour ahahaha.
KF: As a female photographer, have you experienced any misogynistic encounters? How did you handle it?
CM: Oh my god every day! There have been so many encounters where people ask me which band member I’m dating. I can’t even keep track of how many times that has happened. It’s never the band, or at least my friends that have treated me like that, it’s always rude security guards or drunk people trying to buy merch after the show.
KF: What was your first tour experience like with Vundabar compared to now?
CM: I don’t know how to put it into words, but the first tour changed my life in ways that I am still processing. I had just finished college and I had no idea what I wanted to do. I never met anyone like Vundabar. Zack, Brandon, and Drew have a very special bond that I can’t put into words; it’s just a thing you have to witness. The fact that they brought me into their world is something that I hold close to my heart. We are all very fluid people, we have a good balance. They are themselves all the time, they don’t fake it, they are always one hundred percent themselves. The taught me how to be more comfortable with myself.
KF: How do you find moments to yourself or self-care on the road?
CM: Van time can turn into alone time when you are stuck in the car for hours. I’ll write or draw. I guess for me it’s a little bit different from the guys because when they are sound checking I get that alone time. Trying to eat healthy on the road is important too.
KF: Proudest moment of your career?
CM: I had a show a few years ago for a black and white portrait series I shot called Extended Family. Vundabar and my friends Pine Barons played. There were a lot of , friends from different places all under one roof. After the show, we went to The D’s old house down the street and just continued the night by dancing in the kitchen. It was such a special moment for me because the show brought us all together. Usually I’d only see half of those people at a time because we all live in different cities and tour schedules and what not, but we were all there. It was great. Lots of love.
KF: Totally not photography or art related, but what is your dream festival line up?
CM: Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, My Bloody Valentine, LCD Soundsystem. As for smaller acts maybe Shame because I really want to see them. Also maybe D’Angelo, but he’s not a small act he would be a headliner.
KF: An album or artist that changed your life?
CM: Exile on Main Street by The Rolling Stones. I never heard anything like it at the time. I was also drawn to it because there was this photographer that documented the whole process of that era. That album got me interested in other music; it helped developed my taste into what it is now.
KF: Any advice to young kids who want to pick up a camera?
CM: This is going to sound very cliché but just shoot what you like, figure out what you don’t like and fine tune it. When I first started photographing my friends it just clicked with me that I wanted to photograph people all the time. Don’t try and develop a style, let it happen organically.