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Vanessa Granda

Interview with Vanessa Granda

Riley Gunderson
Production / Direction

R: Have you always been interested in photography?

V: Growing up I was quite interested in photography. My dad was a photographer. I was interested in art in general and any way to be creative. Photography was a hobby at that point, I would take a little disposable camera everywhere and take photos of my friends and random things on the street. I wouldn’t say that I knew it was going to be a career by any means.

R: When do you think that changed for you?

V: I was in college. I was studying biology but I was also a part of the school newspaper. They needed a photographer and since I already knew how to take photos I volunteered for that position. Quickly I realized that I liked doing photography more than I liked my biology classes so I switched to become an art major.

R: Have you seen your work evolve in any specific ways over time?

V: Definitely. I think for any artist you learn new techniques, you also meet other people in the industry and talk to them about their creative processes. I think you just refine yourself and you keep refining yourself. The refining process is probably never over but has definitely evolved. The only way to keep it fresh and new, especially to yourself, is to continue to push the envelope every time and try new things within your craft. I think that my work has evolved in different ways: through technique, subject, and things like that.

R: What are the themes that you notice or perpetuate in your work?

V: This question is always hard for me, but I think I like things that are not so forced. I like things that are simple but beautiful. Ordinary, but beautiful. I also try to keep a human quality to it. I don’t like things that are too perfect or too manufactured, sets or clothing that are too extravagant. I like to have that human element to my work and I hope it reads as down-to-Earth, a little sporty, and human, soft and minimal.

R: You seem to work a lot between still lifes and portraiture, what are the similarities and differences you find working with these different subjects?

V: If I am shooting products or objects, I treat them as I would a talent or a person in the way that I want them to look as interesting as possible on camera. I treat them both with importance. People can pose in different ways and you can put makeup on them which is different than with an object that is still. Trying to incorporate human elements into the object is important. I try to make it seem cohesive with my portraiture. Although there are obvious differences, I try to look at them the same.

R: How has moving to New York from Miami shaped your practice?

V: I moved to New York six years ago, almost seven. Basically, in Miami, I felt alone. I didn’t know any photographers at that point so I moved to New York on a whim trying to figure out if I could be a photographer full-time. Coming to New York and meeting the people here, I think the connections here are so much better than in Miami. I think a lot of people know that New York is an epicenter for artists. It has catapulted me to where I am now with the connections I have and friends that I have in this industry. Being around so much talent pushes me to do better. Being here has helped me in my career immensely.

When I first moved to New York I wanted to photograph everything in black and white. I was trying to shed where I came from. I didn’t want anything colorful or sexy. I was taking everything so seriously and shooting only in black and white. Slowly but surely I realized that wasn’t me so I started introducing more color and flavor and sexiness. Bringing back that Miami flavor into my work. I quickly realized that serious black and white portraits were not my thing.  

R: Do you notice a difference between your personal works and that which is commissioned commercially?

V: With a lot of commercial work, the client has sixty percent of the say while you have forty percent. I think that is okay and obviously, we need commercial work to fund our personal work. I try to be as vocal as possible about my ideas and trying to push the envelope with each commercial client that I have. As of late, I have tried to talk to the client to make sure we are on the same page and trying to keep brand guidelines in mind, but also keeping it as me as possible. That’s not always the case, but a lot of brands recently have been open to that. In personal work, you have one hundred percent of the say. That’s a beautiful thing to just allow artists to be artists and to create something that is fully your vision.

R: You have a pretty substantial following on Instagram with over 30k followers, does social media affect your work at all?

V: I think it affects my work in the sense that a lot of people find me through social media. A lot of the times clients will reach out to my agent or me and say they found me through Instagram. I think it is a great business tool, I have gotten a lot of work from it so I appreciate social media in that way.

R: Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on?

V: My magazine, Super Normal. It is a publication that celebrates the beauty in the ordinary, which is my mantra for everything I shoot. It also allowed me to shoot things as well as have my friends who are photographers shoot things. Since photographers don’t get to work together ever, it was a nice way to bring us all together into one project. It is something tangible and something in print. It is a really beautiful project to me and is probably my favorite project to date.

R: What inspired you to create Super Normal?

V: There was just something about the fact that photographers don’t really work together and I have so many friends who are amazing photographers. I wanted to do something that was a group project. I also wanted to create something in print, there is something so much nicer about pictures in print than there is digital. I was inspired to create something that I could have all my talented friends be a part of and that years away we can look at it without having to find it on the internet. Something cool and collaborative between artists.

R: Can you talk more about Super Normal and the editing process for creating it?

V: I am currently working on issue two at the moment. I am taking all the best parts of issue one but tweaking it. Now I know about publishing a magazine and things I would have done differently. I am going in the same direction working on issue two, it will be the same themes, just more refined than before. That should be coming out, I hope, at the end of Spring.

The editing process was so hard, I had never been a magazine editor before. Honestly, when I first thought of the idea, I thought it was going to be much easier. I went through a few designers and ideas of how it was going to be presented. In the end, I found this really great designer in London, Tijl Schneider, who helped guide me through the process of picking paper, how text should be laid out next to photos, and all these things I had no idea about. I just wanted to make a pretty picture book but it was so much more than that. It was tedious at first, but I learned a lot from it and appreciate every moment of it.

R: What would you say is the biggest takeaway that you learned from that process?

V: I think the biggest takeaway is that good things take time. It sounds cliche, but be more patient with things that you want to come out good. Not rushing the process is key.

R: What does your creative process look like and what are your biggest sources of inspiration?

V: When I have an idea I like to write it down. I write themes that go with that idea: color palettes, storyboarding, everything that I could think of based on whatever idea I am trying to create. Then I hit the Internet. The Internet is an amazing tool, as we all know. I do a lot of broad keyword searches. If I am thinking of doing a photoshoot revolving around the color red, I would search “red landscapes,” “red blank,” and would just keep going until I end up in a black hole with all these random inspirations. I am a big keyword searcher on Google, or I use Are.na which I call the “cool people’s Pinterest.”

R: Do you ever struggle with creative block and if so how do you push yourself out of it?

V: Oh my god, yeah. During the holidays, I was very creatively blocked and tired from the world and everything. I have blocks where sometimes I don’t feel like picking up or even looking at a camera. I do things that I enjoy. I like hanging outside in nature, being with friends, drinking wine, watching films, that always helps inspire me. Usually, I try to get out of the house as much as possible, whether it’s taking a different way home or going to a museum. Actual life things help get me out of my creative funk, something always ends up inspiring me and I’m back at it again.

R: Is there anything specific you want people to feel or get when they see your work?

V: I just want people to feel seen. I want them to see beauty. Back to that “beauty in the ordinary,” to see things that are always surrounding us in a beautiful light. It reminds them of every day, but seeing every day as more special.

Find Vanessa Granda at https://vanessagranda.com. Instagram: @ohmynessa

Interview by Riley Gunderson

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