Ken Grand-Pierre is a New York-based music photographer whose lens captures images that recall specific moments and feelings. His love of concerts and live music help fuel his work in this epicenter of creativity. Ken’s photography spans shots of shows as well as his unique “Day in the Life” series which captures images of musicians the day leading up to a performance. Ken has been his on grind and has had the opportunity to photograph the music and performance activities of many dope artists. Throughout his piece Ken touches on his diverse influences, the idea of eschewing perfection in the creation of art, ideas of Reflection and Response, and stories of capturing music through images.
Fuck the idea of perfection and resources. Perfectionists are important in our lives but never allow perfection to be the reason you hold back from doing something; make mistakes and learn from them…
– Ken Grand-Pierre
Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?
KGP: Hello, my name is Ken Grand-Pierre! I’m originally from a small town called Rockland County, which is forty minutes outside of NYC. I am now based in NYC and have been for about six years on and off (more on then off though). Rockland is an area that I always felt I had to get out of, especially from a very small age. There’s good people there but it’s not a place where creativity can thrive, at least not to it’s full potential, so while growing up I’d always see NYC as the epic centre of everything and being able to be here now, being part of it all is still something that’s wild to me.
What does Reflection and Response mean to you?
KGP: Both of those words are strong to me, especially because I find them to be both cohesive and universal with how humans are in general. I think the smartest people I’ve ever come across are the ones who are constantly reflecting on the experiences and decisions in their lives and responding to those reflections in a willful manner. You can’t get anywhere in life unless you have the will to do things, to take risks with your life in any size and variety, and I believe the most important choices you can make in life come from reflection and response.
How does your work fit in with that definition?
KGP: The pieces I chose to accompany this interview are photos that just take me back to a moment instantly. When it comes to covering shows I love working with artists I know close to little about just as much as artists I already admire. I also believe that no one should ever limit themselves to just one genre. It blows my mind how many music fans (even fellow photographers) I’ve come across who are so closed-minded. People who say things like ‘Oh Indie music? Gross!’ or ‘I wouldn’t be caught dead at a Rap show!’ things like that make me immensely dumbfounded, especially if you’re a music photographer you should aim to do as many different things as possible. The shot I specifically picked for this question is of Rónán (AKA Ro) from Irish band Delorentos.
They’re one of my favorite bands and have been for years, and I never thought I’d get the opportunity to see them live. Last year they released a new album and came to NYC to play a show to promote it. I jumped at the chance to do it but I also aimed to spend the day with them for a ‘Day In The Life’ type of photo feature. I had never done one before and I had no idea how to prepare or anything haha but I just went about it naturally and tried my best. This photo was taken right after the show. The band came off stage and I went backstage (well technically downstairs since it was at Mercury Lounge and the green room is a cellar) and Ro was about to grab a towel when I propped up my camera and said ‘Ro! Have a scream!’ and he did hahaha it was absolutely random and the thought occurred in seconds but it’s one of my favorite shots haha. I picked this shot because when I think of reflection/response I think of things that accumulate, as well as things that happen quickly yet seamlessly. My passion for Delorentos brought me to that show and the fact I love what I do allowed me to spend the day with them, so it all kind of comes together in a cause/effect sort of way.
What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?
KGP: I’ve mostly been photographing musicians like always but also doing ‘Day In The Life’ photo features with bands. That’s when I’ll spend a day with a band and photograph the day as it leads up to the show. It’s what I enjoy doing the most and I’m hoping to expand on that. My biggest goals now are to eventually tour with a band and photograph a European music festival. I think when it comes to aspirations those are the two clearest ones I have that’d make me feel complete in some way, shape, or form. I mean people always go on about buying a house or getting good credit but things like that seem so boring to me. You should naturally get good credit and a house in your life so why not aspire for something bigger? For something more? Something I love is when I do something like shoot a festival or an arena show and there’s a moment where I’ll look about and wonder ‘….wow….how the fuck did I get here?’ so I think my ultimate goal is chasing that beautiful feeling.
Who or what inspires you?
KGP: That’s a great question and one I can answer quite easily haha. Damon Albarn is someone who inspires me constantly, as well as the photographer Danny North. Damon is a musician who does nothing but challenge himself and that alone is enough to admire him, but he also tries new things and never puts himself in a corner when it comes to creating. He has the…well I guess legacy would be the word, he has the legacy to do whatever he wants and rather then rehash old work he constantly makes new stuff. I love his music and his work ethic is very inspiring to me. You can tell he very much has a strong desire and need to create art and put it out into the world.
Danny North is a photographer in Leeds who…has the life I could only ever dream of having haha. But along with that he makes ground breaking work, the type of work that makes your jaw drop constantly. When I first got into photography and found his work I was stunned to learn that cameras could even do that, let alone the fact that someone can become so skilled and talented that they could consistently produce such amazing work. I also strongly admire his ethic, he’s as professional as it can get but he’s still very much a ‘human’ which is something I respect dearly. Something that troubles me a lot is seeing photographers who have a pretentious attitude towards photography and seeing someone like North who just comes across as a guy who simply loves what he does is incredible and inspiring.
I’m also inspired consistently by my peers, which sounds like something that should be inherent with being in a creative field but it really isn’t. Whenever I go abroad, even if it’s just an hour or so away, I notice it greatly and it reminds me how grateful I am to be surrounded by such talented people that I get to shoot concerts with.
Is there anything else you would like the Collective to know?
KGP: Mmm…I suppose it’d be that I think music is the most important thing in the world. It almost sounds a bit cliché but it’s one of those instances where a cliché is a cliché for a reason. Music is what is always with you when things are great or when things are shit. It always can accompany you even when you don’t want anyone around you and it can sooth away any bullshit you’re going through in life. I shoot a lot because I love it and that aspect of music, a sense of being escapism, is a major reason why I love being involved with music and concerts. A concert is one (of the few) places you can go to and have everything else in your life not matter, it’s brilliant.
Shout out to…?
KGP: There’s a couple of people I’d love to give a shout out to but I almost feel like it’d be a bit cruel since I’d end up leaving someone out haha. I suppose instead then I’d like to give a shout out to anyone who’s frustrated with their lives. If you’re working a job you hate, have friends you don’t like, in a town you hate (hey I was one of you!), or anything of the sort I just want people out there like that to go out there and create. Something that a lot of people mess up about is they see great art and assume the only way to be creative is to be great as well. That’s pure rubbish, absolute garbage even. Art doesn’t have to be great to be great…which definitely sounds like some pretentious bullshit but I mean it.
Anyone I fiercely admire is someone who creates for the sake of creating. People who look at the definition of perfect and mold it to their own or say fuck it all together. So yeah, if life has you down just find a creative outlet, whatever it may be. Fuck all the bullshit; fuck the idea of perfection and resources. Perfectionists are important in our lives but never allow perfection to be the reason you hold back from doing something; make mistakes and learn from them, fuck up with your art so eventually your art becomes good. Greatness comes from trial and error and more importantly; a need to put out. Grab whatever it is that’s inside of you that’s holding you down and back and look it right in the face and say ‘Fuck you.’ As Neil Gaiman said “Make good art.”
Keep up with Ken’s music photography at the following links:
Reflection and Response.
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