Meet the Artist: Chris Grundy
Where’d it all start?
For me, it all started back in high school. I did Visual Arts as a major. I wasn’t much of a painter, drawer, sculptor, or anything like that. So I asked my teacher at the time, what other alternatives I could use to explore my creativity and he suggested Photography as a medium. Having no prior knowledge, experimentation led to addiction. I was hooked. We had a really good relationship, and I would stay after class and run him through my thoughts on exploring the specific Body of Work and how I got there. To this day I’m still super interested in Art History and all the different movements to date. Forever changing. I don’t just get inspiration from Photographers. I didn’t have a camera at the time, but my dad had an old Nikon F801s from when he was traveling around in the ‘80s collecting dust on his shelf. A long story short, I asked if I could borrow that, and he had some old film still in the bag, which I don’t know how long it had been in there. I ended up shooting a roll of black-and-white film. I had no idea what aperture or shutter speed was. Out of that roll, there was 1 image that stood out to me, that was enough to not put the camera down then and there. From that point on, I was hooked. I experimented with film for a couple of months until I saved up enough money to buy a digital camera, something basic and entry-level but enough to keep me going and occupied. The ocean was/still is the one subject that I love shooting. I remember starting out getting up in the early hours of the morning before first light and documenting these abstract ocean scenes, just myself and a dark sea slowly being filled with light as the sun started to make its way above the horizon. Ha just me and my little plastic tripod. In Winter you get howling westerly winds. I remember one morning, the wind came up and knocked my flimsy tripod over. A brand new lens was crushed. I was like, "shit", walking around going, “This is it.” Trying to create something out of nothing.
Favorite photo you've taken and why?
It’s kind of hard to pinpoint one moment from when I started all across my career. For me, the most memorable, favorite moment was seeing that image from the first roll because that’s what drove me to continue photography, and that was a step to pursue this. That one image is like the one image that’s embedded in my mind; I’ve still got it. I guess that’s one pivotal moment in my career and one image that’s still in my mind, which is great. Then, there’s this moment when I was over in Hawaii, at the end of 2019 for RVCA shooting their Global Team. Dream Job. I had been dreaming of going over there for years. Documenting the ocean is what I love to do. Towards the tail end of the trip, I was sitting down there at Pipeline in the evening with hundreds of people down the beach. From the corner of my eye, I see Kelly Slater walking towards the Key Hole. He sat literally a couple of meters in front of me. The whole beach literally went silent. Whispers of “That’s Kelly”. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, to be honest. I got one image on film of him just before he paddled out and the other was digital of him at Back Door. I had my focal point locked on him as soon as he entered the lineup. He got one wave at Back Door. As soon as he stood up I tracked him, hoping that I didn’t miss it. Holding my breath as he got spat out. I froze. “Did I just witness that?”. I looked at the back of my screen and saw the image. Got tingles over my body. Sometimes you know when you got something special. This was one of them. That was a pretty cool moment and definitely a favorite image of mine—a cool moment to see it all unfold in front of me. I’ve followed him throughout my whole career, and to see him in front of my eyes, at the moment, was pretty special. Backed that image up as soon as I got back to the Airbnb. I hit him up on the gram and he ran it as his display picture for a while. Was nice to top it off. Surfing World ran it as a double-page as well. To be honest, my favorite image just hasn’t happened yet. I guess that’s the drive to keep doing it and keep chasing. That keeps me motivated, to keep shooting. Those are just memorable moments.
Where do you want to shoot next?
I’d love to head to Ireland and document the brutal Winter swells that cut the towering cliffs. You can go to these beautiful pristine places of paradise, but I think I much prefer a rolling sea of chaos to an island paradise! Photographically that is. Another one I’d love to do is follow a family around Mongolia and document their day-to-day life. How they live day to day in the extreme, vast conditions of Winter. Would be a pretty special and moving experience to document. Definitely heading back to India as well. That is still one of the best trips I’ve done to date. There are a fair few on the bucket list.
Craziest moment you've had while shooting or traveling for a shoot?
Hmmm. Two years ago, I was shooting a fashion brand here in Sydney. I was shooting outside my friend's surfboard factory in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Ten minutes into the shoot, a car was coming down the driveway, keep in mind this driveway rarely gets used. I turned around after the car passed thinking there was nothing behind it, but it turns out there was a trailer behind the car. The wheel/mudguard of the trailer smacked me right on the knee, and I hit the ground as well as the camera. Stood up in shock. It was about a 40-degree day—new client. I had to take a 10-minute break. 2 Panadol, and a bit of water. We kept on shooting. Hobbling around the factory for the next 2 hours, firing off frames, and going through looks. As the painkillers were slowly wearing off and I was starting to think, I’d done something bad. I was in a world of pain but kept a cool head, we got it done. I drove myself back home and said to them, I’ll have the images to you by the end of the weekend. They wished me all the best. Iced it and got pretty horizontal, knowing I had to film a music clip in the sand dunes the next day. Had to put that one on the back burner. It was pretty swollen and bruised so I went up to the GP and got some scans done. Turned out I need surgery after finding out I had fractured my knee pretty badly. I was on crutches for four months after that. I kept on working and somehow managed to land some big jobs whilst on crutches including an Apple x Vodafone TVC.
Another... Was when I was on assignment a few years ago down in New Zealand’s Deep South. Shooting for a caravan company. It was the middle of Winter, and we had parked up at this bay for a couple of days and the forecast was unreal. We woke up one morning to it snowing on the beach. Some mates went surfing as the waves were cooking. I rushed down to the water’s edge. Dressed in boardies and a spray jacket as I didn’t want to get my pants/shoes wet. After ten minutes, my feet had gone numb and I couldn’t put up with it anymore. I had to run back to the safety of the caravan, and I poured what I thought was lukewarm water from the kettle over my toes, and I was like, “Warm-up.” I'd lost feeling, my toes were freezing. Ha thought I had frostbite.
Another. I was assisting a good friend of mine up in Newcastle which is just North of Sydney a couple of months ago. It was the last shot of the campaign and we were shooting at this ocean pool below the cliff. These kids were about 15 meters above us. At first, I thought it was like a mini avalanche, but it was these kids throwing rocks off the edge above, not knowing what was below the cliff. A rock the size of a tennis ball skimmed my head and another very close to the model. We decided to wrap the shoot then and there. It would have done some serious damage. Very lucky. Pretty rattling experience though after 4 days of shooting. There’s always a story behind each image. People don’t realize looking at the image, but you never know what it takes to get the image. Looks like a glorious life from the outside that you live, but sometimes it’s dangerous. The list goes on...
Favorite photographer or artistic inspiration?
It's hard to look past the Magnum Collective. Which is a collection of the world's best Documentary/Photojournalists. One is a photographer by the name of Trent Parke. Actually, one of my favorite series he's done is called ‘Minutes to Midnight’. He's the only Australian photographer that's part of the Collective. I’ve got one of his images sitting in my room. I don’t just look to photographers for inspiration though. There are plenty of people that inspire me. Artists, friends, people with similar tastes and interests, galleries, books, music, filmmakers, nature, the ocean, clothing designers to the environment you surround yourself in. Inspiration comes from a lot of different avenues I find.
Favorite book, TV show, or movie from the past year?
I love collecting Photo Books from Artists that inspire me. One of my favorite books is by the French Photographer Seb Zanella called “My Life on Film”. Another is “Maelstrom” by Luke Shadbolt is another recent purchase. I’ve got a second run of “Chasing the Curve” by one of my favorite artists Trent Mitchell coming in the mail. As well as recently acquiring his Award-Winning “Inner Atlas”. He’s got a special eye and is definitely a big inspiration. One of my favorite series of his is Australia Seriously. An ode to Australia and all the different facets that he connects with. I’m a big collector of books and art. I can’t help myself. When someone releases a book I look up to it. “Bang! Got to get it.” Looking at putting one out in the next year.
Last meal on earth? (food, setting, people, etc.)
I love to be perched up somewhere high in Tokyo sitting down with the one and only Sir David Attenborough. Just listening to the stories of his incredible time spent on this planet. All the different cultures he has experienced. His love and admiration for the ocean and this planet. Just absorb. I’d sit there and listen for hours on end. Food-wise I couldn’t go past a selection of Sashimi from Tokyo Fish Markets. Some of the best I’ve ever had was from there... would be nice to revisit that.