His Story: Josh Griggs

Tell us a little bit more about yourself.

Hi all, I'm Josh. I'm currently living in Auckland, New Zealand. During the day I work as a freelance photographer, in the night I am also a freelance photographer (ahh the unusual work hours of a creative...). Apart from photography, I love good food and good coffee. Having a lazy Sunday around the house with a drawn out breakfast and multiple coffees is definitely one of my favourite things.

What is the one quote that you would feel inspired by?

If your photographs aren't good enough, you are not close enough Robert Capa

I'm not one that gets a lot out of famous quotes and what not but this one for me is a good mix of actual advice and a broader idea on what it takes to push yourself photographically. 

If you were to name your camera, what shall it be and why?

Oh man, I totally had a name for my new camera but have forgotten it. I think I might hold of on having kids for a while…

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You have a degree in Graphic Design but yet you’ve chosen to pursue photography full time. What was it that made you change your field of interest?

I stumbled upon Graphic Design in my last couple of years at High School and just kind of knew that it suited me. The paper pushing office job never had any appeal for me - I wanted to do something hands-on and preferably creative. Graphic Design was a good fit. 

However, the further I got into my degree the more I realised that I didn't like graphic design. Well, to be more accurate, I didn't like the process of doing graphic design for clients. Despite it seeming like a super creative job I (personally) found that the back and forth between the designer and client just totally ruined the creative side of graphic design.

With photography I found that I was given much more creative freedom. Clients were much less likely to pipe up and suggest I shoot at a lower aperture or something like that. With design, however, the client will be giving you super specific changes that they want made. I preferred being hired for my vision and creativity than just sitting behind a computer and making tweak after tweak for clients. 

Will you be considering a degree in Photography sometime in the future?

I've actually just recently finished a scholarship class that was offered by a local rental house (www.kingsize.co.nz). The motive of the class was to get emerging photographers ready for the industry. It was focused on teaching the technical, creative and business aspects of being a photographer. After going through with that class, I feel miles ahead of where I was. So I don't see myself pursuing a degree at this point. 

In your opinion, do you think a degree in Photography is necessary in this line of work?

No, I don’t think so. There are a multitude of ways that you can become a photographer - one of them is with a degree but there are loads of other ways.

To be a good photographer, I'd say you have to have the drive, commitment, attitude and a bit of talent as well. Yes, you need to have a good eye but a lot of being photographer comes down to what you are like as a person. Building relationships with clients and nurturing them is absolutely crucial to being successful. If your clients like working with you they will hire you - if you're a twat on set you're probably not going to get a call back for a second job.

Photography is definitely not a straight forward career path and it's definitely not instantaneous. You've got to be in it for the long haul too. Amazing jobs and clients aren't just going to fall into your lap as soon as you buy a camera. The jump from a hobbyist to a professional is quite a big one. 

Does a degree in Graphic Design actually complement the photography career?

I think it definitely does. Knowing how text and layouts can work on your photographs is really important to know while you are shooting. That’s also why I develop strong relationships with the designers of the companies I am shooting for. Being able to quickly understand what is required from the designers perspective makes the whole process flow so much more smoothly. 

Is there any advice you could offer to individuals out there who are considering a career outside the scope of their degree? 

Thinking that you are locked into a career path just because that's what you have a degree in is an argument that doesn't really stack up now with the speed that everything is changing. I recently became friends with someone who spent most of her working life so far working as an accountant. She recently decided it was time for a change - fast forward six months or so and she has an absolutely amazing food photography portfolio. 

Are there any inspirational figures you look up to in the areas of (food) photography?

Kieran Scott and Aaron Mclean are two local food photographers in Auckland that I admire. They both have a style and approach to image making that I have taken inspiration from. There are a few internationals that I like to keep up with but at the same time I try not to look at too much other food photography. I don't want to just emulate what is already out there - I feel really strongly that I want (and need) to have a point of difference. 

As a photographer based in Auckland, what do you love most about the city?

When I first considered moving to Auckland I have to admit I wasn't overly enthused. From the outside it seems like a bit of a sprawling mass with no real identity. Now, however, I love it here. It seems like Auckland is on the cusp of great change. In the last five years there have been some brilliant projects that have really shifted the dynamic of the inner city. The food scene is absolutely taking off. Every week there is an amazing new restaurant or cafe opening. It's an exciting time to be living here. 

In your opinion, what are some of the locations that you would recommend for a photo-shoot?

It all depends what you want. I'd always suggest making a trip to the West Coast. The beaches are rugged and you're really struck by the power of the ocean when you look out at it from those beaches. 

Wandering around the inner city is always a good bet as well. Silo Park and The Domain are both really close to the CBD and are definitely worth exploring. 

What are some of the places that you would recommend readers to visit when travelling to New Zealand? 

It's pretty hard to go wrong here - drive in any direction and you'll probably find some awesome town, beach, forest etc. I would definitely recommend the South Island. The great walks (Milford, Routeburn, Kepler etc) have the most breathtaking scenery you will find. The danger with me is that I would probably take twice as long to walk them as I would have to stop every few steps to take photos. 

We’ve heard that New Zealand in considered to be a backpacker’s paradise. Have you done any sort of backpacking yourself?

Not really. It's a bit of a travesty really. A buddy and I are planning a month long trip to the South Island at some point but it's just hard taking that much time off work. We'll get there though!

Food is quite a popular thing here in our hometown. For aspiring food photographers, what type of equipment (i.e. lenses) would you suggest to the young upstarts? 

For me I love using lenses with fast apertures. These allow me to work in low light as well as having really shallow depth of field when I want it. A 50mm lens is always a good place to start - it's a pretty standard focal length and is a good lens to just leave on your camera. It could also be worth considering a lens that allows you to shoot macro/micro. Be wary of macro lenses though - it's easy to get caught up in the gimmick of being able to shoot ridiculously close to something. Only use it if it is actually the right lens for the shot you have in your head. 

For yourself, what type of photography equipment do you use for your different photography projects?

One of my main focuses is keeping the gear I use to an absolute minimum. The more I can focus on what is in front of me the better my shot will be. I don't want to be messing about with deciding which of my ten lenses to use on a particular shot. Keeping it simple is also a great way to push your eye for composition. If you only have a couple of lenses to decide between you will make it work with what you have. Moving around and really looking for all the angles of a shot will deliver a far better final photograph. Just zooming in and out with your lens can enable a really lazy approach to image making. 

I mainly use a pretty standard mix of prime lenses. A Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art lens was the most recent addition to my kit. I also have a Nikon 50mm 1.4 I use a lot. For portraits, I will often use an 85mm - it's a really nice flattering focal length for portraiture. I also hire lenses when I need something that is a bit more specialised or unique. 

Your website and Instagram feed features some really deliciously fresh food ingredients. Though, we were wondering if you’ve worked with food stylists for your photo shoots?

I don't work with stylists nearly as much as I'd like. Most of the work I have done to date has either been styled by the chef or by me. While this is fine in some instances, I do really love working with a stylist. Going back to what I said before about really focusing on what is in front of me - a stylist is another way in that I can do that. When I don't have to worry about whether a bit of parsley is too wilted looking then I can really focus on nailing the lighting and composition. 

Does working with them affect your style of photography in any way?

My favourite food stylists are the ones that think in similar ways to I do. When you are both on the same page about what is going to make an interesting shot then the shoot flows brilliantly. The images are ten times better when the stylist and I can collaborate in a way that we both have the exact same idea about the shot. When that happens my vision behind the shot is usually enhanced as there is another person working towards the exact same goal. 

Every photographer has their own take as to what makes a good photograph. What’s yours?

For me it's all about mood and moment. If I can successfully give the viewer the feeling of what it was like when i took the photo then I'm doing my job right. 

When it comes to photography, especially on social media sites, the flat lay picture styles are usually very popular. What is your take on this particular style?

It can be used really well but is also quite overdone at the moment. I would say that it's totally fine to use if the shot will work best as a flat lay. Something like a big feast or making a pizza would look great from above. Something like a stack of biscuits just won't work from above. It's all about what works best for the shot. 

Be honest, would you snack a bite on the food product before/during/after the session? 

If there is food up for grabs at the end of the shoot I definitely won't say no! Would be a waste for all the good food not to be enjoyed. I have had some pretty brilliant post-shoot meals!

Do you own your own studio or do you primarily perform on-location shoots? 

Pretty much all of my shoots are shot on location so I very rarely need a studio. If I do need a studio space I can just hire one out. 

What are some of your future plans from here on out?

Over the next few years I plan to continue on the path I'm on currently. Building my client base and really nurturing my client relationships is something I'm always working on. I also have a number of personal projects that I have started or would like to start - making progress with those is another focus. Mainly though, my intention is to continuously develop my style and approach to image making. I want to be the photographer that clients come to if they want natural documentary based food imagery. 

Alright, we’re nearing the end of the interview but before we end off, could you share some advice on what potential photographers should mentally prep in mind before deciding on a career as a photographer?

If you are going to do it, commit 100%. Yeah, it can be hard with paying bills and all that carry on without a stable salary but I really believe it's not something you can do without complete focus. Basically every waking minute should be spent shooting, learning and thinking about photography. It's an immensely rewarding career path but it isn't probably quite as glamorous as it seems from the outside. You will be running a small business - tax, accounts, quoting, invoicing and emails are all going to a large part of what you do. If you are prepared for that then absolutely go for it. It's a fantastic career path and incredibly rewarding. Being able to make a living with a camera is a novelty that I don't think will ever wear off for me.