Gallery Talk with Dale Grant

Tell us about yourself and how you became a photographer.

I was born in the Bahamas but have lived and worked most of my life in Paris, New York, Amsterdam and Berlin. After receiving my Masters Degree in International Relations from Boston University’s overseas program in Paris, my intention had been to attend law school. But this  changed after I began assisting a friend who was a fashion photographer. I fell instantly in love with photography and from that moment knew that I wanted to become a professional photographer. After having worked for many years as a commercial photographer for magazines and fashion houses, I turned my focus to fine art photography and flowers became my models of choice.

How has living in so many amazing places influenced your work?

My mother was a photographer and I remember watching her photograph customers who came to sit for portraits in her studio in Nassau. I can still remember sitting as a young child next to her in the dark room watching her develop and print film. The smell of the dark room chemicals still remind me of my first exposure to photography.

The Parisian sense of style and fashion influenced my photography the most but it wasn’t until I was trying to escape the stress and hustle of living in New York, that I began photographing flowers. While living in Amsterdam, I became heavily influenced by the remarkable floral arrangements in Rembrandt's work, and other old masters, and by the beautiful flowers so readily available in that city.

Although most people appreciate flowers, the way you photograph them makes us see them in a different light. What motivates you to use flowers as a subject matter and does their limited life span not make your work difficult?

I approach photographing flowers the same way as I approach photographing faces. I study them from all angles and not unlike how I see beauty in all faces, no matter how unconventionally beautiful they may be, do I see beauty in the imperfections in flowers. 

Through my photographs, I would like people to discover all the intricate and unique details they usually don’t associate with flowers. Similar to looking through a magnifying glass.

I photograph flowers in all stages of their short life, not only when they are at, what most would consider, the peak of their beauty. It is for this reason that their short life span does not make working with them more difficult. Often, I observe flowers sitting in their vase for weeks on end and it may be a certain angle or the way they move towards the light, of petals becoming wrinkled, fall off or loose their vibrant colors, that will inspire me to photograph them at that moment.

Will flowers remain an endless source of inspiration or will there be a day where you may move on to another theme?

This question comes up often. I photograph flowers because they speak to me on a deeper level which is where my inspiration and love for photographing them comes from. I feel a connection with flowers similar to what I feel when photographing faces and it seems there will always be new and surprising ways to capture them. 



Your work not only focuses on flowers but is also well-known for its black and white portraiture and nude photography. What do these different subject matters have in common and what makes you decide to shoot an image in color or in black and white?

What they all have in common is that I see them all as portraits and my goal is to examine and highlight the individual beauty in each of them. I photograph my human portraits in black and white as I feel that color would be a distraction from the unique features in individual faces. To me, faces are more interesting in black and white as the textures of the skin, and what one might consider to be imperfections, are more accentuated or brought forward. Due to their vibrant colors, I prefer photographing flowers in color. That said, I can easily see myself one day experiment with photographing them in black and white. I photograph my nudes in color but as they are inspired by late 17th and 18th century nude paintings, I use a more muted color compared to what I use for my vibrant floral photography.

Can you share with us more about the process of how you set up a flower photoshoot? Do you have a particular idea in mind prior to a studio shoot or does a visit to the flower store become your main source of inspiration?

I would first visit my favorite florist to select new flowers. He knows me well and understands that I select flowers the same way as I cast models. I usually select a small number of flowers all based on how they’re opening, their color and shape, or on certain imperfections that appeal to me. At home, I would observe the flowers in their vase for days on end to see how they open up and move towards the light. As I really need to feel inspired, most of the flowers I buy will likely not be photographed. Because of their conventional beauty, I find it challenging to feel inspired by traditional roses.

As I never start with a fixed idea of how a flower will be photographed, I will let the process, and how light influences the shapes and forms of the petals, guide me. I can spend hours photographing one flower this way. At the end of a photo session, I’m usually pleasantly surprised by the unexpected outcome. To me, being spontaneous and trusting my creative muses is the best way to photograph flowers. The same goes for the post production process where I do not work with predesigned filters, or otherwise manipulate an image. Other than making the background a pure black, and apply small tweaks to enhance the flowers’ beauty, I’ll leave it to each individual flower to guide me through the process.