Behind the Scenes With Photographer Joel Grimes

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Editor’s note: Kirsten Kraklio is an Arizona State University student and Arizona Highways’ editorial intern for the spring 2014 semester. Here, she shares her recent experience working with photographer Joel Grimes, a frequent contributor to the magazine.

As an intern at Arizona Highways, I get an opportunity to see the inner workings of how the publication makes it from the heads of editors to the hands of readers. In addition to refining my writing, I wanted to experience how the photos that readers see make their way into the magazine. Photo Editor Jeff Kida set me up to shadow the brilliant Joel Grimes for a shoot.

Grimes has shot in more than 50 countries and worked with some of the top advertising agencies in the world. To say he knows what he’s doing is a bit of an understatement. When he shoots, he works with composites, a method he’s used for the last seven years. The composites allow him more creativity and the chance to evoke more emotion and connections to the image. Grimes, who is colorblind, said he lets his weakness become his greatest strength and focuses on light, rather than color.

Imagine being a young intern walking into the studio of someone of Grimes’ caliber. There was potential for intimidation, but Grimes welcomed me with conversation and let me pick his brain. This friendliness continued when his subject for the night, professional rodeo announcer Dan Fowlie, showed up. The two stood outside chatting and swapping stories as if they hadn’t just met. Granted, Fowlie isn’t a shy person, but since Grimes has shot tens of thousands of portraits, he knows the importance of finding a subject’s character. “You never know who will walk into your studio,” Grimes said.  “There’s an art to making people feel comfortable.”

For the night’s shoot, Grimes didn’t know what background he would eventually put Fowlie in. He changed angles and lights to adjust for whatever environment would be next. And whenever a shot was great or he changed a position, he was able to show Fowlie immediately on his iPad what the photo looked like; that way, the subject could share the process as well.

When it comes to knowing which photos will be the best, Grimes uses a quick assessment to judge which will be the final shots. For post-processing, Grimes said he advises photographers to know what their attention span is. The techniques he uses can be finished within his two- to three-hour attention span, saving him from pain and suffering. One of the big things that stuck out to me about Grimes is the way he’s always learning and adjusting to changes in technology that can enhance his work. “We’re in the greatest age of photography,” he said. “If you can’t change, you die.”

— Kirsten Kraklio

To learn more about Joel Grimes, visit his website. His photograph of Dan Fowlie will be featured in an upcoming issue of Arizona Highways.


Filed under Et Cetera, Photography

2 responses to “Behind the Scenes With Photographer Joel Grimes

  1. Hi Joel,
    Do you know anything about music? Have a listen to some of mine. You can cheek it out on my web site. Just click on the album cover and it will take you to iTunes and click on the album cover again and you can sample for free.

  2. VeronikaC

    Kristen: it would have been nice if you had given a little explanation of what “composites” means. Maybe it would have made the article more complete in developing the idea of Joel’s skills, especially in light of his color blindness.
    Also, for Leslie (previous comment): are you clamoring for attention?

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