Today we go BTS (behind the scenes) to shine the spotlight on Photographer Denise Grant.
Denise has been a photographer for 42 years … specializing in actor’s headshots, music industry, publicity, production and corporate shots.
10 QUESTIONS WITH DENISE GRANT
1 – WHAT WAS YOUR JOURNEY TO BECOMING A PHOTOGRAPHER?
I began as a photographer when I failed at everything else. I dropped out of grade 11 after three months, hitchhiked to Vancouver and lived a hippie life in the 60s. By the time I was 21, I’d held 23 jobs. Clearly I’d figured out what I didn’t want to do but had no idea what I did want—I bought the Time Life series on Photography and taught myself a skill. Luckily, that skill became my consuming passion.
2 – WHAT DOES PHOTOGRAPHY MEAN TO YOU?
Photography means the world to me; I not only work full-time as a commercial photographer, but my hobby is taking pictures to post on Instagram. Without that outlet and inspiration, I’d be lost. My job allows me to shoot a huge range of subjects–I’ve done at least 700 album covers so music is a large part of my life–but I also get to work with actors, authors, realtors, politicians, entrepreneurs, stunt guys– in the space of two days, we were hired to do guys in SWAT uniforms doing tactical self defence maneuvers and then the World Champion Balloon Twister. The variety of challenges is invigorating.
3 – DID YOU HAVE FORMAL TRAINING OR ON-THE-JOB TRAINING (WITH A MENTOR)?
No training—self taught.
4 – WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU PREFER TO USE?
I’ve always used Nikon.
5 – WHAT IS THE INFLUENCE OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY ON YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY?
Making the change from film to digital was daunting to say the least—I was a darkroom technician, loved it and understood film well so the thought of going into a world where I was completely ignorant of the things that I’d need to immediately utilize horrified me. I resisted for a long time but once I became at ease with digital, I recognized the advantages and beauty and convenience.
6 – IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT IS IMPORTANT WHILE SHOOTING HEADSHOTS VS PORTRAIT AND CORPORATE PICTURES?
Shooting actors is entirely different from anything else. To begin with, actors are (generally speaking) extremely sensitive and are reluctant to have their picture taken. They are often introverts who have chosen a career where they get to adopt the cloak of invisibility and become someone else—who work while they avoid eye contact with a movie camera. A photoshoot is the opposite of those things. In working with actors, you have to be able to connect at a more intimate level and create a trust field so that they will open up—getting the essence of an actor is in the eyes. Shooting corporate is really about shooting the confident exterior image rather than the interior. Portraiture allows for more imagination but I like the fact that when I shoot actors, I’m required to have the shots suggest specific roles — like young mother, paramilitary, FBI profiler, ‘bad guy’… it’s fun to watch actors stretch their range.
7 – IN YOUR FREE TIME, WHAT KIND OF PICTURES DO YOU LIKE TO SHOTO AND WHICH ONES DO YOU AVOID?
In my free time, I take shots to post on Instagram. I shoot urban architecture, abandoned buildings, food, classic cars—- I don’t shoot people because I need time to really interact with people and the nature of my IG shots is quick—snapshots of a moment in time, really.
8 – WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE CHANGE IN THE PHOTOGRAPHY WORLD?
I would like actors to realize that paying a professional photographer to produce strong shots with accurate skintones and then putting blurry IG filters on the shots actually degrades the work and lessens the actors credibility. I’d like for less people to suddenly say “I can shoot actors”, set up shoot days where actors are coming in every few minutes, getting a few shots and getting out so the next one can come through—that doesn’t give the actor a shot with essence and it creates a ‘cash cow’ mentality that is demeaning to the actor.
9 – WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Absolutely everything inspires me. Other photographs I admire, nature, a fascinating conversation, music of all kinds.
10 – WE ALL HAVE MENTORS – THE PEOPLE WHO GIVE US THE HOPE, INSPIRATION AND THE DRIVE TO KEEP GOING – IN THIS INDUSTRY, WHO ARE YOUR MENTORS AND WHY?
I am surrounded by supportive people—my family, agents, casting directors, musicians—I have encouragement and criticism available to me whenever I need it. No one mentor but I’m affected by many people. Guillermo del Toro inspires me as a visual artist but the list goes on.