Hi guys, welcome. It would be great to know a bit more about you both. Could you give us some info on your backgrounds?
JAG: My name is James Grant and I’m a fashion, portrait and documentary photographer based in London but originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands. I’ve worked overseas as an art director and photo editor as well as lecturing in photography before coming back to London in 2012 and since then I’ve been working as a freelance photographer for a variety of brands. When I’m not shooting photos I love surfing and riding motorcycles and I try to combine them all as often as I can!
James A. Grant
That’s an impressive summary JAG! And you James?
JC: I’m originally from Portsmouth but I’ve lived at different ends of the country over the years. I’ve been involved in the BMX scene since I was a teenager and eventually ended up riding for a few companies, which was a childhood dream of mine. I worked as a graphic designer while riding and shooting videos on the side, then one day I was given an opportunity to take a risk and leave the safety of my graphic design job to work for myself filming full-time. I went for it and eventually started up my own company, Black Dots Video a number of years later. So I guess I’ve been doing this kind of a thing in one form or another for over 20 years now.
How did you first get involved in the Meet The Makers project?
JAG: My first Dickies shoot was for a collection in 2014 and since then I’ve been working fairly consistently with you for the last six years. I think that my interests have always led me towards taking pictures of ‘real’ people and capturing moments that would otherwise maybe never get to be seen. So when the opportunity to shoot the Meet The Makers campaign was offered to me I grabbed it with both hands. I’d worked with James Cox a lot before and I knew that his style would be well suited to this too so we teamed up and hit the road to shoot the makers at work and learn more about them!
Can you give us a rundown of where the Meet The Makers campaign has taken you and and the makers that you’ve met along the way?
JAG: We started off in London to shoot my good friend Reino in his studio. He’s the Head Jeweller and owner of The Great Frog. We had a rad day seeing his processes from start to finish, which led us on a trip in his bus to see the full workshop at The Great Frog’s Flagship store in Shoreditch. It was an impressive operation! From there we headed over to Cologne, Germany to shoot Coxie’s mate and professional BMX rider Felix Prangenberg. We spent the day with him, hitting a few of his favourite local spots in the city. I was stoked that Felix also let me wear his X Games medal!
We flew to Nantes to meet Jeanne Duval where we spent the day being chased by thunderstorms. The weather finally changed as we arrived at her local spot, and It was rad to see Jeanne skating again having just recovered from an injury. Then we travelled back to the UK to shoot barber Paul Hewitt and family at his Bristol barbershop. It was inspiring hearing about the incredible journey Paul’s taken to get to the level he’s reached. We finished back where we started in London with another friend of mine; skateboarder, motorcycle builder and Bootmaker Felix Jouanneau. It was the perfect way to end our trip. We rode motorcycles, watched Felix skate and learned about the crazy process it takes to create his pieces.
Did you face any challenges shooting the campaign?
JC: It was all pretty problem-free to be honest. I think the only thing really was when JAG drove our hire car straight into a boulder, leaving us on the side of a mountain in the Black Forest for about six hours in the rain! Fortunately there was a gas station that sold us enough beers to help us pass the time until we were rescued. Also it can be quite full-on going from one shoot straight to the next. You want to arrive at every one with as much enthusiasm and creativity as the first, even if you’ve been up late working on the last one, or travelling through the night to make it to the next location in time. It’s exciting and it’s a way I personally love to work, although it can be challenging for sure.
With such an incredible selection of independent makers and getting an insight into their day “at the office”, what would you say your highlights were?
JC: Although we don’t spend long with each maker, it’s long enough to see the time they’ve put into their passion, developing it to a point where it’s become their profession. I guess I’d put JAG and myself in that category as well, so spending time with such talented people motivated us to push ourselves too. When you’ve got what looks like a dream job, I don’t think people realise that it doesn’t often just fall into your lap - it’s a result of a lot of graft and determination. The balance of pride in what you do but also being adaptable enough to turn that into a service that people want to invest in is what makes you a pro, and spending time watching and learning from these makers was an experience that you can’t really beat.