In a lot of ways, James Grundy is like a hunter in the wild. Except instead of a high powered rifle, he uses a camera, and instead of game, he photographs people. You’ll find him lurking in your average or extraordinary New York City neighborhood, waiting, watching for the right moment to grab his image. He wanders the concrete jungle with purpose, to convey the emotion of a place and the people who live in it. The guerilla photographer of the urban experience is showing a similar sensibility on the web. By using kickstarter to fund his Urban Race project. We caught up with him to talk about this series.
Can you explain what your Kickstarter project is all about for people who don’t know?
My Kickstarter project is about exploring each of the different neighborhoods of Manhattan and capturing the busy yet placid moments that people experience. The title Urban Race is a testament to living life in such a populous and busy city.
The bulk of the money will go toward printing costs of the books and photographs, shipping costs and hiring of a graphic designer. Anything extra will go toward offsetting the substantial cost of having all the film developed.
Do you think it’ll be hard to select images for your book, or do you have an idea of which pictures you’d like to include?
Image selection is coming along fairly easy with the help from my buddy and very talented photographer, Eliza Harrison. I also feel that with the week long turn around time on a roll of film, it gives you time to reflect on the photographs you have taken–once you have the shots in front of you, the stronger ones tend to stand out much more than if you were able to instantly view them on a digital camera.
What is the message you hope to convey with Urban Race?
I want Urban Race to convey the culture and fast-paced lifestyles of the people living here, but also their fleeting moments of peace and isolation. New York City has a reputation for the hard and fast, for frantic commuters and more noise than you could poke a stick at. I hope my photographs illustrate that underlying sense of calm and detachment despite the chaos. There are people everywhere, but the irony is that they’re so glued to their phones or otherwise preoccupied they become indifferent to external stimuli. You become essentially invisible.
I started getting into photography when I was around 15 years old. Mum and dad had a point and shoot camera that I would steal and sneak out with to take photographs. I was always going surfing with my brother back then so I saved up and bought one of the first Olympus underwater cameras. I think I took around 30,000 photographs on that thing before it seized up. I bought my first DSLR a couple of years ago and that’s when I really got stuck into photography.
Was it a bit of a culture shock to move to New York City?
New York City is one hell of a city, but I didn’t really suffer much of a culture shock. The yanks are very friendly people with a great culture and I’ve got some very nice friends here who helped me along.
Why were you drawn to street photography, what do you like about it?
I love the erratic nature of street photography and the surprises that it throws your way. With street photography, and this holds true especially in New York, is that you don’t have to be heading anywhere in particular to get a good shot because there is always something happening everywhere. It’s like this city just rains down on you with opportunities. It’s great.
When people catch you taking their picture how do they usually react? Have you ever had anyone get mad at you?
People are usually less than impressed when they find out that I’ve taken their photograph. I think people nowadays feel very entitled to their sense of privacy–cameras have become so ubiquitous that they have lost any kind of charm that they may have once had and people are very jaded about having their photograph taken and are also quite skeptical about the intentions of the photographer. I’ve had empty drink cans hurled at me by old women, been shouted at in Brooklyn and approached by street vendors telling me that I’m not allowed to take their photo, that it is in fact illegal and that I should show them proof to the contrary.
When out photographing do you have a plan of where you want to go for the day, or do you wander around a bit?
When I’m out shooting I’ll either be walking around with a clear intent of what I want to capture and illustrate, but other times there is no intent, I’ll have my camera with me and If I see anything that grabs my attention I’ll take the photo. If I see a place with great potential then I’ll hang out there and wait. That part about it is kind of like hunting. You know you’re in the right area but you have to wait it out until you see the right opportunity.
You use three different cameras for your project, why did you choose to use those three cameras?
I have the three different cameras for my project, two 35mm and one medium format. I have two different lenses on the 35mm cameras, usually a 50mm and a 28mm wide angle and sometimes different films in them. I use the medium format camera because the photos come out with such detail and with a price tag of around almost $2 for each photograph (cost of film and developing), it forces you to compose and shoot in such a vastly different manner than with a digital camera. It’s really a rewarding camera to shoot with.