Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Lessons from Joel Grimes

During my second year at uni I attended a seminar led by American photographer Joel Grimes. Grimes has been on the professional scene for over 26 years and his work has seen him working for top ad agencies and has taken him to over 50 countries around the world. His work has a unique aesthetic – a blend of studio and location which is rich in HDR and post-production technique.

Image copyright Joel Grimes

Below is a small collection of notes I made at the seminar.

You are unique – your uniqueness is the single greatest asset you possess as an artist.

Don't let someone else's definition of something (e.g. 'portrait photography') hinder you as an artist. Some people are uncomfortable with Grimes' methods of creating composites of studio and location photography, claiming it's not 'real' or 'true' photography. “Photography is not real and never has been. At best it is an illusion of reality,” Grimes says. He is simply an artist who uses a camera as his chosen tool for creating art. "A true artist is free to explore without boundaries."

The creative process has everything to do with an intuitive, emotional, feelings approach. A correct exposure can only be determined by the artist – there is only so far you can go with histograms. Lighting is 1% technique and 99% intuitiveness, emotion and feeling. We don't immortalize technicians, we immortalize artists.

Hard work will outperform talent any day of the week. Grimes had a fellow student at art college who the tutors raved about because he was so talented. But he never really did anything with that talent, so nothing much became of it or him. Grimes, on the other hand, put the effort in. “Success is not reserved for the brilliant but for those who have the fortitude to overcome adversity.”

Keep creating new work. If it's over 3-5 years old, it's too old for the portfolio, according to Mr Grimes. If you want to do weddings, mock them up using – it may sound harsh – only beautiful people. Then get those images in front of potential clients.


Fear of rejection is the biggest thing to stop you succeeding. You will never market effectively unless you learn to overcome the fear of picking up the phone and making a cold call.

Price is the ultimate factor that determines who gets the job. It's not necessarily about how good you are, but can you be good and give the best price.

If you enjoyed article this you may find this interview with music photographer Pat Pope interesting.

No comments:

Post a Comment