User Stories: Ken Grand-Pierre
Ken Grand-Pierre, a talented young photographer who dislikes the idea of categorizing his photography style, is the type of person you’d admire for following his passion with full force. The majority of his work involves musicians, having photographed numerous artists including Lorde, Iggy Azalea, and The Scripts. Bunchcut sat down with Ken to learn more about his intriguing lifestyle and personality.
Give us some background about yourself. Where were you raised? Where did you go to school?
We traveled around a lot when I was a kid, but I was mostly raised in a town called Rockland County, which is 40 minutes outside of New York. It’s the type of place where you feel stunted, in that the world feels very small, so I grew up putting NYC on a bit of a pedestal. I moved to NYC when I was 17 to go to college and I’ve been here ever since. I went to college at the Art Institute of NYC but I think the city in itself taught me a lot more than college ever could.
How old are you?
I turned 25 a couple of weeks back actually! The quarter life crisis has crept up slightly but for the most part it’s been a very pedestrian summer. Most of the traveling I’ll be doing will be in the fall, so it feels like I’ve been in a sort of stasis throughout the summer.
What was your first camera?
My first camera was a lousy Sony Cybershot! I bought it December 2008 and I had such a rush of going to shows with it, that I never thought about its actual capabilities. It’s a camera not made for what I was doing (photographing musicians), but my enthusiasm made me ignore all of that.
What was the first photo you remember taking?
It was a photo of Billy Lunn from The Subways screaming towards the crowd. I still have that photo actually and am so proud of it. I had no idea what I was doing back then but now I look back at it and feel as though I caught a specific moment in time.
When did you decide that photography was for you?
To be honest, there was never really an actual conversation I had with myself about that. I never actually cared about photography for the longest time. That must sound ridiculous, considering the magnitude in which I do it but it really did become a thing of ‘doing this brings me closer to music’ and it’s music that I truly cared about. It all just kind of snowballed into a passion and a profession over time.
What is the 405, how did you get your job there?
The 405 is a music and culture magazine based in the UK. There’s an aesthetic to what the 405 leans towards, and whether you like that aesthetic or not, it is of quality: anything you see on there was made by someone who cared about what they were doing, and I recognized that when I first found them. I started working for the 405 by just sending an email to them and asking them to do it. When it comes to working in music, you achieve things most of the time by asking. It’s very rare to stumble upon a job posting, applying, and getting the job. There are not many people I know in the music industry who’d say that was their story.
What do you do at the 405?
I take photos of musicians for the 405. I also write about them for features, mostly interviews, but my life revolves around being embedded with musicians for a day, or even days at a time. All with my camera in hand.
What does a traveling photographer do? How many places have you been?
I’ve been to Sweden, Holland, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Canada, France, and New Zealand. I always want to go to new places, as well as places I’ve been to before. For instance, I lived in Sweden for about a month, and every day I think about going back and experiencing new things and new places there.
What else do you do?
I watch movies a lot, and I’m always listening to something. A friend of mine from Belfast pointed out to me once that I can be in a quiet room and pretend that I’m comfortable, but it’s so obvious that I’m uncomfortable. So with that, it made me realize how I am in my day-to-day life, and there really aren’t many instances where I have silence in my life. I need music or a podcast in my ears or a soundtrack playing at all times. So yeah, that and movies, because I seriously love movies. You can learn so much about life from watching a movie, and a lot of people will think that’s a form of escapism, but it’s a matter of perspective. Watching movies can sometimes give you a different perspective on life.
Tell us about your favorite photo shoot and/or interview.
My favorite shoot was probably with Phoenix in Philadelphia back in 2013 at the Made In America Music Festival. They let us photographers shoot the whole set! They had such a dynamic lighting show and being able to capture the progression of that was a true privilege. It felt like I was being let in on something very special and that my craft was being respected. Respect is what photographers truly want over anything else.
My most memorable interview is actually one I did recently with Albert Hammond Jr of The Strokes. We were meant to talk for about 20 minutes but ended up talking for well over an hour. I’ve been transcribing it now and it’s been like ‘WOW…we talked A LOT’ and I feel very proud of the tone of it all. It’s a very revealing interview and I love that I was able to bring that out in someone.
Do you have a team of other photographers that you work with?
Not in the traditional sense, like an editorial team of photographers. However, with living and working in New York I do have a bit of a — bleh, I don’t want to use the word — ‘network’ but I have something in that vain with the people I often shoot with. I consider them all friends, and that makes it such a great experience shooting here at times. Believe it or not, working in music can feel very insular, so having people you care about around you makes it much more enjoyable.
What do you think about Bunchcut?
Bunchcut is a unique and interesting platform…everyone and everything else is aiming to copy one another. It’s refreshing to see a site aimed specifically towards making it easier to work with lots of images…currently a massive pain.
Do you think other photographers like yourself might benefit from Bunchcut?
Absolutely. I don’t think there’s a photographer or creative who couldn’t benefit from Bunchcut as it’s so simple to use and allows photographers to store and showcase their work more effectively.
See Ken’s work on his Bunchcut board
Visit Ken’s website at www.kenamiphoto.com