People such as Grant Palmer have found a way to balance the practicality of reality with their creative passions. In the past 15 years or so, he’s traded the technology side of life for capturing images around the world. With his ability to capture everything from the mere existence of humanity to the most daring elements, Grant Palmer is a talent unlike any other. It was a pleasure to speak with such a proficient photographer like him. See what he had to say about the shots, the fire, and more.
Kendra: Were you always a creative person into the arts or did you start life out in a career that was more traditional?
Grant Palmer: At university, I studied engineering, which, I suppose is more technically creative rather than artistically creative. I did a bit of acting and singing in high school, as well as lighting and sound. My engineering career has been in medical devices and has allowed me to live and travel all over the world. I have moved more seriously into photography in the last 15 or so years.
Kendra: What drove you towards photography? Was it a particular picture?
Grant Palmer: As a child, I had a simple, cheap film camera. I managed to capture an almost circular lens flare. It was crinkly and all the colors of the rainbow. I had created something unseen on film. It was a very tangible demonstration of the power of photography.
Kendra: You’ve said that you move your perspective to fit the objects. What’s that mean from someone who’s never picked up a camera?
Grant Palmer: It is very easy photographically to warp reality to your own liking. I wrote that when I was doing a lot of street and event photography. Rather than set up images, I sought them out. Moving and adjusting my position. As I have moved into other areas of photography, this principle stays with me. Any image has a subject, light, and point of view. In portraiture, it means that how a subject wants to be seen is very important. It is up to me to use that vision with my skills and make a compelling image.
Kendra: How do you feel technology has changed photography over the years?
Grant Palmer: Increasing technology has certainly made some aspects of photography easier. Lighter gear, faster glass, and digital capture have facilitated the expansion of photography to a wider group of image makers. It has democratized photography which is a wonderful thing. It has allowed artists broader access to sophisticated image-making tools. The one thing technology can’t (yet) replicate is they eye, the idea, the creativity. Girl with a Pearl Earring is a compelling image and comparatively low tech.
Kendra: Southern California has its gems, but you came here from Australia. How would you compare your hometown’s picturesque qualities to that of your new home?
Grant Palmer: I currently live in SoCal, but have lived in the Bay Area, Colorado, New England, and Europe. Each has its own charms. Australia has some beautiful regions such as the Blue Mountains and the deserts in the center of the country. Travel has given me perspective and I don’t compare the different places I have lived anymore. They are all unique. Southern California has wonderful desert areas, Sydney has its harbor.
Kendra: Aside from landscapes you also are a master of capturing fire, especially at events such as Burning Man. Is that particular subject matter something that takes a lot of trial and error to get right?
Grant Palmer: Fire appeals to both my technical and artistic sides. I put a lot of time into understanding the limitations of the camera system to be able to capture such a wide dynamic range. I also spend time just watching fire performers. My main way of making fire images is to use the light from the fire tools to light the performer. Both of these cut down the amount of trial and error when at an event and allow me to focus on making the image. To not think about the technology, and be in the moment with the performer. To me, fire photography isn’t just about the fire. It is about the performer and their relationship with the fire. There are certainly images of “oh wow – fire!” but the ones I get the most joy from are the more intimate portraits of performer and fire.
Kendra: You also shoot a lot of spectacular women. Which isn’t uncommon. Throughout history, women have often been the subject of many works of art. Why do you feel like women make a better picture than a man?
Grant Palmer: As you say, the female form has been the subject of art throughout history and there are many images of women in my portfolio. I don’t think that women make “better” images than men, and I have compelling images of men as well. I believe that as visual artists we are drawn to shapes and forms we find interesting. In social feeds, I follow there is an increasing number of more gender diverse images from artists from a wide variety of backgrounds, and they are stunning. They give me the inspiration to look for more diverse models and stories to tell.
Kendra: On top of photography, you also are a writer. Do you approach the crafts differently?
Grant Palmer: Writing for me these days is more a private exercise. I use it as a vehicle to organize my thoughts and work deeper into an issue I am thinking through towards creating an image. I can see it being a companion to a set of images. It has stayed with me and I am open to it being a bigger part of my creative life in the future.
Kendra: Please tell us what’s going on for you come 2019?
Grant Palmer: My more recent personal projects have been more conceptual. I want to play more with that. As my compositing and editing skills have increased, I see a lot of potential fun. I have also enjoyed making images for non-model people. I have now done a few where the images are record album covers, cosplay etc. Those are fun to do and I take great delight in seeing the models faces when they get the finished product. I like the idea of helping someone realize a dream.