Having grown up in the Welsh countryside, Grant James-Thomas has had a special connection with nature since he was a child. His love for nature is reflected in his images, where the beauty of haute couture clothing blends with wild landscapes.
His thirst for adventure brought Grant to the four corners of the world and nourished his photography, making it more “raw”, more honest.
We tried to find out more about this prodigy of photography.
Hello Grant, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hi! Yes sure, well my name is Grant James-Thomas, I’m a photographer based in the UK, I’m currently living in Wales on a farm. I specialize in fashion and travel photography, and over the past 10 years I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to some of the most beautiful and remote corners of the world on assignments for various magazines and brands.
“I’m sure there were lots of different factors that contributed to my entry into photography.”
How did your passion for photography begin?
I’m sure there were lots of different factors that contributed to my entry into photography. Partly probable was my egocentric narcism to document and preserve the world around me. I remember being interested in cameras from a really young age, like super young, maybe from the age of 7.
“I have a deep love for nature.”
I recall looking through the Argos catalogue for birthday and Christmas present ideas and was always attracted to the cameras, maybe this was because they were the most expensive things in the catalogue, though I only actually obtained a high end camera once I sold my horse at the age of 16.
What drove you to fashion photography?
I’m not sure exactly, I think it just seemed like the only obvious progression that wasn’t small town photography, portraits or weddings etc…
“The camera gives purpose to adventure […]”
We see a lot of beautiful wild landscapes in your images. What kind of connection do you have with nature?
I have a deep love for nature. Where I’m from is very isolated and beautiful so this love was installed in me from a very young age.
Some of your images reminded me of documentary portraits. Is that something you’re interested in?
Yes I’m really interested in documentary photography. I spent a year in India doing it and enjoyed the process so much. The camera gives purpose to adventure, you can go anywhere and do anything just for the camera’s sake. Walking up little random streets and getting lost for hours in slums and speaking to anyone and everyone.
“I really want to do something that is uniquely me […]”
I don’t feel the same in the West though, I’m too connected to it to feel like an observer and I don’t think people here take kindly to being photographed. I’ve found in Asia there is a different relationship to photography entirely. For example if you ask to take a strangers photo they happily oblige yet as soon as you point the camera at them you receive the most deadpan and serious stare, which then diminishes to a smile as soon as you’ve taken the photo.
What is your creative process, how does the idea of a shoot come to you?
Ah, its always so different, the path to a shoot can be very varied. How does any idea come to you? Maybe something inspiring like a book or a movie. Sometimes it comes from Instagram or a dream, and sometimes we are just copying something we saw on Instagram and trying to do it better.
“For a long time I just wanted to create beauty, but over the last year I realized how empty of a task that was.”
I think a lot of people are just doing the latter subconsciously and its a huge problem for today creatives: their innate need to reference the same people and same trends. I fall victim to this too sometimes and I hate it so much. I really want to do something that is uniquely me and less influenced by others but this is sometimes seemingly impossible to accomplish when a lot of your influences are subconscious.
What do you wish to communicate through your images?
For a long time I just wanted to create beauty, but over the last year I realized how empty of a task that was. I’m currently working on new concepts and projects. I’m interested in contrasts: right now I’m really interested in the contrast between luxury and vulgarity. I think they are things that go hand-in-hand.
“I want my photos to be honest now, not boring and pretty anymore.”
I’ve spent a lot of time reading about psychology and neuropsychology and I’d love to include this into my work more but I’m not quite sure how to do that for the moment.. I really enjoy shooting in public too, and all the spontaneous energy you get in the photos, reactions and honest energy, this combination of a deliberate and planned photo amongst the real world. I like to write poetry and write it into my images too. I want my photos to be honest now, not boring and pretty anymore.
What are your sources of inspiration?
Its always a hard question to answer but I guess its my own experience of the world.
“In today’s world, to be successful you need to move against the grain […]”
What type of gear do you use?
I use a few different cameras… medium format, 35mm, digital slr, my phone sometimes..
What advice would you give to a young photographer?
My advice would be to start as young as possible as people assume your work to be better than it is. It happened to me as I started at such a young age and my career just seemed to snowball, but I think one decade ago was a whole different world. In today’s world people aren’t impressed by a young photographer who can take nice portraits, because there are hundreds of young photographers doing that, now they are blasé.
In today’s world, to be successful you need to move against the grain and do something different to everyone else. Use instagram to upload your own work but my advice would be to not look at the imagery others in your spheres are creating. Figure out what you like, what is unique to your experience and go from there, research the greats of yesteryear too.