Brian Arnold

Brian Arnold is a photographer and designer whose work follows a loose theme of consumerism in the South and the visual indications that we recognize and take for granted. He runs Phone Home Press, a zine publisher, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Instagram: @bargain_town

How do you feel about the relationship of an artist to their city or surroundings?

For me personally it makes all of the difference. Your relationship to your surroundings can either be a driving force or be crippling. I definitely feel the best when I'm getting out of my usual bubble and driving around and taking photos. 

How did your interest in your medium begin and how did you arrive at your current style?

I started taking photos on a regular basis in my early 20s. As a teenager I used disposable cameras and a Polaroid 600 but never treated it like a serious thing. At 21 or 22 I came across the Lomo scene and got really into Holgas and those sort of cameras and it was like discovering a whole new world.

In a lot of ways my photos have always had the same running themes. As a kid and especially as a teenager I really resented growing up in a small Southern town, and down the road photography in a weird way helped me contain those demons and present them in ways that I found were both attractive and ironic. Over the years my style has meandered and expanded, but the sentiment has stayed the same.

Who have been some of your biggest influences or your best teachers?

Since I was a teenager one of my biggest influences was the aesthetic of the Harmony Korine film Gummo. It was the first time I had seen that side of Southern culture portrayed in an artistic and even romantic sort of way. The other things that inspire me are flea market and yard sale culture. The entire concept of making deals and finding bargains and living cheaply. Giving unwanted objects a second or third chance at life. I feel the same way about the buildings that I photograph, in that I feel the need to preserve these temporary things that will eventually be demolished and forgotten when they get a face lift and become coffee shops. 

Where do you go to draw inspiration?

My places are outside the downtown area. Places that still have an element of their past life to share. I find a lot of inspiration in digging through boxes of old magazines or cameras at the thrift store. Another huge source of inspiration has been the photo zine community that I've been a part of for the last few years. I've come across so many awesome people.

Tell me about a recent, current, or upcoming project or exhibition.

For personal work, I have a handful of zines that are either almost finished or are just waiting to be printed, on top of various design work. For Phone Home Press I have two zines that are in the works that I did the design/layouts for. The first is titled "Views" by Texas photographer Adolfo Acosta. It's almost out. The other is titled "Good Grief" by South Carolina photographer Katie Fenske [Fenske is a past SG curator—ed.]. They're two of my favorite photographers out there and I'm stoked to be putting out zines for them.