Many people will say, that with the amount of photography we are bombarded with these days on social media, it's become nearly impossible to be seen or stand out.
I challenge that notion with my belief that in a sea of images that are all increasingly copied and similar in style, a true artist is easy to spot, and genuinely stops you scrolling to take a closer look.
Chris Grundy is a true artist.
A scroll through his feed or browse on his website will both challenge and excite your viewing mind.
He takes a subject that many of us photograph and presents it in a more artistically talented and aesthetically pleasing way than most I've seen.
Plus, he's a genuinely really friendly and nice guy. I mention this intentionally, as a distinctly common theme with all the successful photographers I have interviewed for this series, is how generously giving of their time they are amidst super busy schedules.
Chris' detailed answers were a joy for me, and will be for you to read. This is a guy you can definitely learn from and be inspired by.
Many of you will be more than familiar with Chris, but there's always a part of me that hopes some of you are not. There's nothing more exciting (for me anyway) than beginning a journey of discovery on a photographer you can't believe you never knew about.
Enjoy this one. I truly did. And as always, be sure to check out both the Instagram and website links to Chris' work listed at the end of the interview.
I spent the first two years of my life living in London, but ever since then I’ve been living in Sydney. Currently calling Bronte home.
Was photography always the plan or what first made you pick up a camera? And more specifically how did you start out shooting surf and ocean imagery?
It all started in my late teens, when I was trying to put together a concept for my Visual Arts major in School. I thought photography might be an interesting medium to express my creativity, so I asked my dad if he had an old camera lying around at home. He handed me his old Nikon F801s from his travels in the 80’s, which is still part of my kit today. Having no prior knowledge on how to use it, experimentation quickly turned into an obsession. I received back my first roll of Black and White film from the lab, and in there was one image that became imbedded in my mind and from that roll I fell love with it.
I’ve always loved shooting the ocean, experimenting with long exposures and some more abstract series. For me there’s no better feeling than getting up in the early hours of the morning, driving to a location and not knowing what’s going to appear in front of your eyes. Always welcomed with something new, different and unique.
I was down on the South Coast a few years ago and received a phone call from Max Stewart of Eye Symmetry (A Sydney Based Surf Board Manufacturing company), he loved my work and wanted to meet with me. When I got back to Sydney, I went into the factory had a chat with him. Since then, I've been working closely with Max in the shaping bay and Tom Carroll in the water. In turn, this has developed into an amazing friendship. Tom is such an inspiring person. He always has a story to tell and being able to work so closely with him has been an absolute pleasure. We’ve done three trips to Japan, one to New Zealand and several domestically. Over the past couple of years, I’ve formed a strong partnership with Jamie Krups. We always have a good time when we link up as he is such a talented human in and out of the water.
The composition in your images is incredible. I see the work of someone who pushes it to its limits or stretches the rules. But only someone who knows the rules so well is able to break them in such an artistically pleasing way. Can you give me an insight into your thoughts on this and maybe how this developed?
I really appreciate that Scotty.
Composition for me is something that makes an image. Something that draws the viewer to a certain point within an image and forges that engagement. The way light falls on the subject, the time it takes the viewer to work out what’s going on in the image or the way you shot it all helps when constructing an image. Doing something different, to what others are doing makes an image stand out and hopefully resulting in something unique. Photography to me is like visual journal and a reflection of my feelings. It's a platform for me to communicate a moment and a vision stored away within a particular moment.
I like to think that a photograph is just a blank canvas. Whatever you choose to fill the canvas with, is completely up to you. Creating something special for the viewer to interpret. I’m fascinated about the history of photography and love to study the works and series of Photo Journalists mainly within the Magnum Collective.
How much time so you get to shoot surfing these days, is it something you always like to return to between non-surf commercial work?
To be honest not as much as I would like too, but whenever there a swell on the horizon I’ll always try clear the calendar and link up with someone to shoot. If not, just hit the road with some mates or go shoot some personal work solo. I’ve been lucky to go on some pretty amazing trips over the years, but I really want to document something special over this Winter and whatever pops up either side. Maybe work on something with Jamie.
For aspiring creatives reading, what did the process look like for you of turning your creative passion into your current career eg getting your first paying gig, turning that one job into more jobs, building to working with brands etc?
I started off documenting a subject that interest me, the ocean. It’s an element that’s out of your control and even harder to predict. A forever changing subject is great to work with. It challenges you to create an image with whatever circumstances are at hand. Light can change so dramatically in a short period of time and documenting the subject throughout that change can have a huge impact on the work you’re producing and result in something quite special. It'll also help you to grow and make the best of a bad situation. I started documenting a series of images based around the ocean and its surroundings, and posting it. Not long after that people started to ask me if the images are available to purchase. So, I started selling prints. There's something magical about seeing an image I created in print and then shipping it off to collectors around the world. Can't beat that feeling.
Then I started getting asked to shoot portraits, press shots for artists and then commercial and fashion work. I was approached by a Creative Agency in Melbourne who I’m thankful to have met and worked closely with for couple of years. I was introduced to some wonderfully talented creatives, one being Jennifer Stenglein who I’ve been lucky enough to assist on number of shoots over the past 5 years.
I think building ongoing relationships with your clients is so important. It’s great to see them develop and grow over the years and to be part of a journey is an absolute dream.
Your client list is the stuff of vision boards – Nike, Corona, Hurley, RVCA just to name very few. What are some important lessons you have learnt through working with larger brands that have helped you continue to grow in your career?
If I'm shooting a model or for a client, before I even get the camera out, I like to get to know a bit about who I'm photographing. It makes the shoot flow and shooting in relaxed atmosphere is so much more rewarding and efficient. I try not to force my image making. If it’s not working, move on and let the space breathe. Take a step back, slow things down and let moments unfold naturally.
When you go through your surf images after a session, what elements are required in a photo for you to select it as one you will publish?
There’s a lot of variables that go into creating a special image. Waves, wind, lighting, angles, lens, talent and location. When you get the shot and the elements align it’s a pretty great feeling. Composition at the end of the day will be something that separates a lot of images. I’ll try find a spot or angle within the first 10 mins, plan and compose the shot prior, but it takes two to tango. If you get the shot move on, if it’s not working, search again and find something unique.
If you could jump on a plane tomorrow and shoot anywhere or anything just for your own enjoyment, what or where would it be?
Would love to spend a month in Mongolia, Cuba or do another trip to India.
What or who inspires you creatively?
I tend to find inspiration through music, art, exhibitions, films, books, friends, magazines and travel.
Any other parting advice for aspiring photographers?
I think patience and persistence is key. Work hard and don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way. Be confident in what you do, and make sure you put out quality work. A positive attitude goes a long way. Be interested in what you do. Start off by shooting things that you enjoy and shoot those around you. Develop your own unique style. Experiment with your camera, find out what works for you. Travel and try new things. It’s a big learning process at the end of the day and there’s a lot more to it than just shooting. Try to take a photo a day, even if it’s off your phone. Visit galleries, attend exhibitions, buy photo books. Meet up with photographers that inspire you or drop them a line. Breathe. Shoot, shoot and shoot again. Analyse your own work, criticise it. Just keep at it. Look back at your work in a years time and I’m sure you’ll see improvement and development.
Dive into Chris’ world further here