Welcome to Classics, introduce yourself to our readers. Where are you from originally, Where is home now?
My name is Grant Spanier — a director / photographer living and working in Los Angeles, CA. I got my start in Minneapolis, Minnesota and re-located in late 2016. I’m in a directing duo called DAD® and the majority of my work is in music videos, artist/creative direction, and photography. I also shoot and direct for commercial brands and fashion/editorials.
You are an accomplished artist, director & photographer across many disciplines. Who or What inspired you to shoot?
I started as a writer. I moved into design. Then I took those combined skills into filmmaking (my true aim for awhile). I actually started shooting photos as an escape from the complexities of filmmaking.
Movies, music, videos, & photos are some of the most exciting things in the world to me. They are Things that make people Feel. I’m always chasing the high and the gratification of making people Feel. That pursuit is what inspired me and continues to inspire me to shoot.
You have an awesome website slashgrant.com where you state, “my life is an iterative art project. ” Can you elaborate on your philosophy?
I think labels and self-definition can be helpful (and vital even) in actually embodying certain skill sets. For example, calling yourself a “photographer” has a lot of potential positive benefits and is a real step in “becoming.” You begin to live like a photographer if that’s what you call yourself. So committing to labels can help you cultivate realities.
But in the reverse... we get so committed to what we are we stop becoming. By looking at yourself and your creative journey as iterative we allow ourselves the room to abandon that which doesn’t serve us and become the most interesting version of ourselves.
My life is an art project and living it as such enables me to become more than. The juice is the unknown, so I keep going there instead of staying put.
What was your first camera and can you recall your earliest pictures?
My first camera was an Olympus Stylus Epic. My first pictures were street photos in Minneapolis, Minnesota and mostly black and white. The person who started that journey with film & photography for me was my then-cinematographer (Kevin Horn). I have him to thank for stoking that fire and taking me out shooting.
Tell us about your journey into photography.
I started shooting photos to liberate myself from the long process of filmmaking. I stayed shooting because it became a fundamental part of who I am... how I see and interact with the world.
How would you describe your style and aesthetic?
Cinematic, saturated, nostalgic, hypnagogic
Do you have a favorite photograph?
My friend (photographer) Linnea Stephan took this photo of a little girl that tickles me.
I created a series of photos of Taylor Lashae (this one especially) that are particularly satisfying in that they were 35mm double exposures, achieved all in camera, with halves shot 2-3 months apart in Los Angeles and Chicago, respectively. I shot the first half, the “plates,” in LA with Taylor. I shot the second half wandering around Chicago late at night with my little sister... when we happened upon this amazing JESUS LIVES neon I knew it was perfect for the roll. The way the images lined up is/was mostly chance.
The patience and risk involved in those analog double exposures makes the final image that much more satisfying.
Who are your favorite Cinematographers and Photographers?
Roger Deakins, Robert Yeoman, Helmut Newton, Wolfgang Tillmans, David LaChapelle, Nadia Lee & Spike Jonze.
What is your favorite camera?
What inspires & influences you today?
Music always. Films. Film. Feelings. Collaborators.
Where in the world would be your dream location to shoot?
At the moment I really want to go shoot in Berlin, and in particular the train stations there.
Do you have a creative process?
Usually my creative process starts with writing. It’s how I best organize and express the seeds of ideas. A big part of what I do is having/cultivating vision(s) — I find that forcing myself to write these ideas down in some form gives them structure and helps me discern the kernel of the idea, which is the thing that I will always come back to when making decisions about the project. Doing this early allows me to act more intuitively throughout the rest of a project.
My creative process really has to do with me paying attention, collecting inspiration and various forms of “clay” (i.e. creative material) for when I’m ready to create, and forcing myself to engage in the (often difficult part) writing.
Then of course there’s the actual act of shooting, or directing... which to me is sort of the easy part. Once you’re on set you can let go and just create. I also scan my own film, which is a time-intensive but absolutely vital process. People don’t seem to realize that the “scan” is literally another photograph of your image and has enormous impact on your final results. Scanning is liberating and vital for me.
When I’m directing as DAD® (the duo I’m in) it involves my co-director and I talking it out and writing it out and pulling image references in long sessions fueled by coffee, kombucha, and sativa. We have very similar brains/taste though, so I find this process incredibly satisfying as we move quickly and excitedly. Working as a duo allows us to operate as more than individuals and think in ways we never could.
Who is you favorite filmmaker?
Christopher Nolan during the week, Spike Jonze on weekends.
What is your Favorite Book, Feature Film and Music Album?
Consider The Lobster (the collection of essays by David Foster Wallace), Drive, Currents
What are your favorite publications/websites?
i-D, Wonderland, 032C, Indie, Metal, Dazed, Pinterest (lol so helpful), No Film School
Any upcoming projects we can look forward to?
I just directed a music video for a couple of iconic lil pop singers that should be out soon. I’m hoping to do a proper show for my Drive Thru Social Club series in the next 6 months. I’ve got lots of photos and videos in process... I’m not slowing down.