Documented over four years of travel, photographer WILL GRUNDY and his recent project offers a frank and moving insight into the human condition.
Words by Scott Causier
Approx reading time: 3 mins
London-based photographer and member of the We are Willow Collective, Will Grundy’s recent collaborative project explores humans and the environment they inhabit. Working alongside We are Willow co- founder and musician Chris Butler, Grundy shot and documented their time spent travelling over the last four years, whilst Butler wrote and recorded an album.
"The idea was to create two responses to a place using two different mediums based on shared travel experiences. I personally wanted to make an outsider perspective body of images drawing influence from photographers like Robert Frank."
There is an immediate frankness and honesty in how Grundy describes his work. Setting himself boundaries within his perceived format allows for greater variety in the images that he creates, whilst still remaining within the realm of portraiture.
"I would say I make quiet images. More akin to poetry than, for example, documentary or journalism. I'm most interested in people but they don't always have to be explicitly in my pictures. I love black and white pictures by other people but I exclusively shoot colour."
His choice to shoot solely in colour on film places him at the mercy of the medium in which he works, though the quality of the film images speak volumes. He thrives on the interactive process of analogue image making and the time for reflection it offers him as the creator of those images.
"I was schooled in analogue photography, it’s what I know. I feel it makes you interact differently with your subject matter, it heightens your awareness of everything, not allowing you the luxury of complacency.
"It makes you instinctive and more decisive in the moment. The time between taking a photograph and seeing it is much longer than with digital. This allows an image maker to be much more objective and less emotive on whether a picture is actually any good because you're looking at it with different eyes on a different day. It makes you a better editor at every stage of the process"
The presence or absence of the human subject Grundy describes is captured in the images selected for the book. An empty cinema, row after row of velour-upholstered seats, in a hue that definitely suggests they were of a time gone by.
Powerful too is his choice of image exploring the human touch and his ability to manipulate the environment with the placing of objects in an attempt to ignite the mundane. A dormant picnic umbrella, closed up following another day's use.
"I think it is unavoidable to not capture people whether they are in a picture or not. The man altered landscape is nearly impossible not to be in. Seldom place is unadulterated."
Grundy notes the inevitability to this when addressing the topic of the city and the inhabitants of that space and how they edit their environment. There is a beauty in the emptiness that can be offered as the city sleeps or in those moments of quiet that momentarily occur between the hustle and bustle of city life.
"You'll find a lot of similar people in any large and vibrant city around the world. Cities attract certain kinds of people so there was a lot that was similar to London in that respect. I didn't want to go and explore somewhere totally alien to me, just alien enough to awaken my curiosity."
Going beyond the initial documentation of an image he also attempts to take something from that process that may hopefully become a positive or thought-provoking stimulus for the viewer.
"The sort of thing that I look for is a subject that is going to teach me something about the world or about myself and why I'm interested in that thing. It's a long term learning process.”
Aside from the promotion of his Berlin project, Grundy is working on a fashion project with stylist Beatriz. S. Maués promoting vintage, recycling and reusing clothes. The project will document different cities and how they offer an alternative to the unethical world of fast fashion. The project will ideally come to fruition in another book.
“All I want to record with photography is a place at a time, which is essentially what the Berlin project is. If I can achieve that whilst capturing images that are also aesthetically pleasing I'm happy."