Trust & Intimacy
London-based director and photographer Shaun James Grant grew up in Sheffield, starting his journey wanting to be the next Bruce Davidson or William Eggleston; he'd take his 1970’s Minolta SRT01 everywhere with him in an effort to capture poetic human moments, and he wasn’t bad at it. However it soon became quite frustrating not knowing when these moments would present themselves. He struggled with a lack of control and would get nervous about leaving the house without his camera unless he missed the perfect shot.
"I was constantly distracted and a little obsessed. It affected my relationships with people a little. The best way I can describe it is, you know how people are obsessed with Facebook or Twitter? I was obsessed with the world. I was present and absent in the same space. It wasn’t for me."
"I was obsessed with the world. I was present and absent in the same space. It wasn’t for me."
Photography for Shaun had started as a way to occupy himself between filmmaking projects - he’d be restless if his head wasn’t looking down the barrel of his next moving image shoot. For Shaun shooting stills is quite a recent thing, especially working with film. He picked up his first film camera at the beginning of 2016; a little Nikon AF point and shoot that he purchased to take away with him for a winter break. He immediately felt involved with the texture and soul of film, and and hasn’t let go since. It allows him to be really present in the moment, forcing him to be really considered.
"The thing I immediately took away from that experience is that I wanted to create candid work that felt like i was capturing a moment in time, something that people could relate too. I just needed to do it on my own terms, in a way that felt natural but was in some way preconceived. I think a lot of that has to do with the way I direct, I’m not one for just going out there and seeing what we get, there has to be at least some form of a plan then if it goes out the window on the day at least I know what it is I’m trying to take away from it."
For Shaun filmmaking and photography have created a relationship within themselves. His experience working as a director allows him to form comfortable relationships with his subjects fairly quickly, which evokes a sense of trust that allows for intimacy, thus creating emotive pieces. In turn, photography has equally made him a more efficient filmmaker;, giving him more foresight in compositions, setting the moody yet attractive tone that’s work is known for.
We asked Shaun about his technique - how he approaches shooting and where he’d like to take his craft:
FAB: When you’re working as a director is there anything specific you look for in scripts or treatments? Do you consider your film work generally more reportage in style?
SJG: "Strong characters and good story are always key regardless of whether its music promo, shorts or even online content. You need a good starting point, something to build on. For music promos I tend to challenge this by communicating with an artist or label in order to gain a strong understanding in what it is they are actually trying to say, I think that’s really important. It doesn't need to be a strong statement as such but in order for an audience to believe in your work you must be able to really understand it yourself. I tend to challenge the projects that come to me with idea’s but no real purpose, I don't like to be cool for the sake of being cool as it tends to result in a short lived thrill rather than something that can stand the test of time. Some of the best conceptual work out there really connects with an audience because most likely it came from a place that the artist felt something about.”
"You need a good starting point, something to build on."
FAB: What sort of jobs/shoots do you prefer to work on?
SJG: “I'm really enjoying working in music at the minute and expect I’ll be doing so for some time to come, its a good space to really grow as an artist and figure out what makes you tick.”
FAB: Do you prefer studio or location shoots? And any reasons why that’s the case?
SJG: “For narrative work (both promos and shorts) I try to stay on location as much as possible, I like to give the subjects as much of the real world to operate in as possible, keeping things tangible so they can really immerse themselves in the work. I’m definitely a realist, even in the most abstract of settings. I like things to come through the lens as opposed to made by the computer, partly because I’m just not that good at it, I don't have the patience for things I can't see."
"For live performance work I tend to stay in the studio for more control, although with that being said I’ve got a few exterior shoot ideas that I’d love to put into practise for the right artist.”
FAB: What would you like to be woking on in the future (where you’d like to see yourself working?)
SJG: “I want to spend more time in narrative and it’s definitely my intention to do so in the future. Nothing else gives me the same feeling than just working on a good script and great actors. Also I’d love to do some more fashion stuff, bring my photography to life a bit more and I think this could be a good way to do it.”
"I want to spend more time in narrative and it’s definitely my intention to do so in the future."
FAB: Any advice you’d like to impart on your craft to photographers going into the field?
SJG: “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. What’s important is you get out there and actually do something, nobody can take that away from you. Also, be true to yourself, do the work you want to do and believe in and people will believe in it too.”
"What’s important is you get out there and actually do something, nobody can take that away from you."
FAB: Anything you’re working on at the moment that you can share, or any sort of personal directions you’re embarking on that serve your career.
SJG: “I'm writing a feature that i’m really excited about, its early days but the first draft is coming along nice, would be great to be shooting that next year. Long road ahead but I’m ready for the challenge."
Shaun is using Calico for his site, splitting his work into distinct film and photography portfolios. Upfront Shaun is using Calico's spotlight layout which allows him to create a distinct style through his cover images; person-focussed with lots of space. The result is a clean style that leans comfortably towards his personal aesthetic; calm and relaxed. His film projects are accompanied by stills; giving an immediate linear sense of the work. His photography projects carry through the Spotlight layout, creating a visual story for each project.