Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Joel Grimes: True Grit

By Kim Castleberry, Photography By Joel Grimes Published in Photographer Profiles
Joel Grimes blends color with black-and-white. Known for years as a black-and-white portrait photographer, the transition was natural because it modified a technique he had been using already; Grimes is color-blind, and he doesn't see green at all. Although he makes use of the power of software like Photoshop and plug-ins from Nik Software, he wasn't comfortable with extensive color balancing. That his style developed out of what he once perceived as a personal flaw is something he focuses on when giving workshops or lectures. Grimes believes an artist's greatest asset is finding what sets him or her apart.
Joel Grimes blends color with black-and-white. Known for years as a black-and-white portrait photographer, the transition was natural because it modified a technique he had been using already; Grimes is color-blind, and he doesn't see green at all. Although he makes use of the power of software like Photoshop and plug-ins from Nik Software, he wasn't comfortable with extensive color balancing. That his style developed out of what he once perceived as a personal flaw is something he focuses on when giving workshops or lectures. Grimes believes an artist's greatest asset is finding what sets him or her apart.

While his name in the world of celebrity and commercial portrait photography continues to grow, Grimes remains ever committed to the creative process and to pushing himself forward into new territory. He's starting to do more fashion and beauty work, and because it's an area to which he hasn't devoted much energy, he sets aside time to do unpaid fashion shoots that he conceives because it helps him keep a fresh approach. He does 50 or 60 of these "self-assignments" a year.

"You have to be willing to constantly reinvent yourself," he says. "There's such a fast turnover of ideas now. If you can't say, I had a good run with that, but now it's time to move on, you're in trouble. The number of hours and the energy I've put into the last four years have far exceeded anything previously in my career. I knew I had to get onboard and make it happen or I was going to be selling life insurance."

Grimes calls this the greatest era of photography because of all the tools, techniques and accessibility that the digital age has made possible. But to him, many of the challenges are the same as when he started. In those days, he was making 40 cold calls a day, hoping that someone would want to look at his book. Today, he notices that there's a whole new crop of young photographers who may not have the same breadth of technical acumen that Grimes and his peers had when they were getting started, but creatively, they're way ahead because so much more is possible now as techniques are constantly evolving.

Grimes is one of 17 artists whose work is on display as part of the "Digital Darkroom" exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles through May. It's a whimsical and surreal collection of images that explores the place where art and technology meet. One of the artists Grimes was particularly impressed by is 24-year-old Brooke Shaden, who uses inventive techniques like shooting photos of herself with an aquarium duct-taped to her head to create dreamlike self-portraits shot in remote-looking landscapes. One of her images became the inspiration behind a Ron Howard short film.

"An expensive camera and a master's degree aren't required to become a rock star in this field," Grimes says. "You just have to be willing to push those creative boundaries. The difference always comes down to one thing: If you're an artist with a camera, you'll get noticed; if you're a technician with a camera, you'll blend with the masses. In the end, it really doesn't matter what new technical advancement is on the horizon."

Joel Grimes has spent three decades working for many of the top advertising agencies in the world. His clients include AT&T, Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, Hyatt, Qwest, Red Bull, Sony, Visa, Volvo and more. See more of his work at www.joelgrimes.com.

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