Grant Spanier, an LA-based photographer and director, chats with us about his work and process as we welcome him to the LomoAmigo community.
Hi! Introduce yourself to the Lomography community.
My name is Grant Spanier — a director / photographer living and working in Los Angeles, CA. I got my start in Minneapolis, Minnesota and re-located in 2016. I’m in a directing duo called DAD® and the majority of my work is in music videos and artist/creative direction + photography. I also shoot and direct for commercial brands and fashion/editorials.
What inspired you to originally start photography and how has your style evolved since then?
I started shooting photos as an escape from the complexities of filmmaking. The gratification is so much quicker and more accessible, generally. I’ve basically been an analog/film shooter from the beginning, since it was really just for fun and to develop as a visual creative person. Now I have more tools and a deeper understanding of image-making that helps me get closer to aesthetics and ideas I’m chasing. Ultimately, I thrive with some constraints and space for spontaneity in my work.
You work on a lot of projects that people would consider "commercial". How do you maintain your style while shooting everything from musical artists to clothing to advertisements for Nike?
People come to you for your style. There’s a benefit to being a chameleon at times, at least in your ability to take on certain elements of a brand or artist, but they don’t come to you to look the same. Of course with massive global brands, the lane for your style can be smaller, but it still doesn’t mean they just want you to regurgitate their brand back to them. People come to you because they trust you or think you can bring something to the table. It’s important to at least meet them part way. If you get stuck doing what you think other people want you to do or say, you’ll end up saying mostly nothing at all.
What is your favorite project that you have worked on so far?
Camila Cabello’s tour visuals were a real treat. It was my first chance to direct a longer form, multi-faceted piece in the music industry — knowing it was experienced live every night by new crowds was special. There’s something so incredible about the live show element and being part of her (insanely passionate) fans’ show experience was a dope opportunity (plus Camila is a fantastic collaborator).
I found that you have your artistic manifesto displayed on your website. Can you elaborate on that a bit?
It was helpful for me to articulate my purpose for being/creating and some general philosophies. I found the act of refining my experiences and philosophies into a manifesto to be rewarding so I thought it might be valuable to others. It came from years of creative consumption and freelance creating in different mediums. It’s fairly engrained in me at this point, so it’s more a matter of putting names/ideas to general instinctual responses. I’m sure it will evolve with the next iteration of my site. Starting with something is infinitely more than nothing.
What advice would you offer photographers just starting out?
Shoot, shoot, shoot. Study artists' work you love. Dissect the work. Get familiar with technical aspects. Then find a piece of paper and write “images are more important than gear and settings” 25 times. Start seeing pictures everywhere — you don’t need a camera to see the world like a photographer. But carry a camera with you.