Photographer, Daniel Grizelj
Photographer Daniel Grizelj puts a fresh perspective on conceptual photography. His photos bring a cinematic edge and fictional feel to the standard abstract style. Getty Images' Art Director Lauren Catten sits down with Grizelj to talk about his aesthetic values and unique photographic eye.
My family is Croatian and moved to Sweden in the ‘70s. Growing up in a small Swedish town was very intriguing; we lived in a suburban area with lots of nature all around. I spent a lot of time building treehouses and exploring the river, just roaming around and making things happen along the way. Eventually as I got older and the small town wasn’t enough for me, I moved to the second largest city in Sweden, Gothenburg. It’s a city on the west coast with a beautiful archipelago. I studied at the Faculty of Art for 3 years and then applied to the University of Photography and Film. I have been a professional photographer ever since.
How did you get started in photography?
I was doing clay animations with an 8mm film camera and got tired of the long process it required, so I jumped over to photography where I found my medium of expression. Now I can’t be without it.
Did you begin with still life or was that a transition as you discovered what you liked to shoot?
I shoot almost everything, but still life is something that has grown on me in the last few years. I like the calmness of making still life images, and the process of giving my thoughts space.
You’re obviously a great photographer, but your set designs are also amazing – is this an aspect of the process you particularly enjoy?
I try to carefully plan what I want with the image I create so yes, I enjoy the process of making and gathering the props I need for the shoot.
What has been your best set?
My best set was actually a very spontaneous one, I got an assignment for a beer company to shoot some still life images. We put together things they had laying around in the brewery and created a stage where the bottles could act. It was not planned, just improvised in the moment which I find is sometimes the best way to create.
Do you have any particular themes or props that you like to revisit?
Themes I like to work around are relationships, politics, and mystery. I don’t have any particular prop that I revisit, I just use whatever is needed for the shoot.
I love the way you use gels in your images, it’s rare to see those lighting treatments in still life, what led you to experimenting in that way?
The use of coloured gels is something I was inspired to do from watching Asian films. I like bringing in colour to give the extra atmosphere and dramatic feeling I am looking for. With such unique lighting do you find commercial clients asking for the ‘Grizelj’ treatment? Yes, we usually have a dialogue about if the images are going to look like my work!
There’s definitely a sense of drama in many of the images you create, where would you say this comes from?
I am very interested in storytelling. The notion that something has happened before or after the image was taken is an interesting aspect for me.
Do you strike at random as an idea comes, or are you more methodical?
I am more of a methodical person. I like to conceptualize around the idea and then pin down the essence of it.
What’s the worst mistake you’ve made while photographing and how did it change your understanding of your job?
I forgot to put a memory card in the camera and when I noticed it we had already been shooting for a while. Lesson learned, always double check all your gear and make sure you have everything and that it’s working. Nowadays, there are so many technical aspects that you can’t afford to be unfocused.
Is there an image that stands out to you in your own archive as a moment that was extra challenging to capture or feels more special than the rest?
Yes, it’s an image of a man in the woods from a shoot for a famous Swedish singer. It was a cold February evening, we used smoke so that the colored lights would be more visible and create the dramatic effect we were looking for. It was freezing and he was so cold so it was very stressful to take the image but it was totally worth it.
What would you say to people coming up through the process to be a professional photographer?
I would say find a niche and get very good at it. Learn the craft of camera and especially the lightning. The more knowledge you have about it the better you will get. You have to have passion for the craft.
What is your go-to app?
I must say Pinterest on this one.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Electronic music mainly: deep house, tech house, downtempo and some classical music.
What is the view from your window?
The view I have is of a big tree that a fisherman brought (and planted) from his journeys one hundred years ago. The tree is inhabited by two magpies.
What is next for you?
I aim to do some art photography projects this year. I have this need to express some ideas I have been thinking about for a couple of years now. My hope is that it will end up as an exhibition in the near future.