Joel Grimes’ work is instantly recognizable. From powerful, dynamic posing, to a rich, yet desaturated, HDR look, to masterful compositing which is both surreal and firmly grounded in reality, his photography is iconic. His work has such intensity that, when I met Joel a few years back, expected him to be equally intense and, perhaps, aloof. Instead, Joel is easy-going, approachable and generous with his time and knowledge.

With that in mind, let’s hear from Joel.

Aside from the mechanics of photography (e.g. the exposure triangle, framing and composition), what one piece of advice would you give a person picking up the camera for the first time to help them capture the best image.

The single most important thing you could do in becoming a successful photographer, is to repeat the process more than 99% of all the other people on the planet. Thats it.

Its not about talent (whatever that is), attending the most expensive art college, owning the best equipment, or assisting Annie Leibovitz. There are a lot of people that have done that and more, and where are they? Where is their body of work? What impact have they made on the photographic community?

Somehow, we believe there is a short cut. In the end it just comes down to hard work.

What creative habit did you add, remove or alter, which resulted in a breakthrough in your work?

For a long time I looked at myself as a photographer by definition. But about eight years ago I had a revelation that changed everything. That is, I am to the core, first and foremost an artist with a set of tools. The tools or the process don’t define me.

It is my unending passion for the creative process that drives me. The tools or the process aee just means that assist me to reach my goal as an artist. As a result, my work exploded on a whole new level.

Some artists embrace the unknown. Others try to control for it. Which are you? Why?

I would much rather embrace the unknown because I relish in the found or the unexpected things in life. For me, there is a danger in trying to over-script a shoot. For the most part, I really don’t know what I want until my subject steps in front of my camera. Then, the magic starts to happen.

That just fits my personality; there are very successful photographers that work the exact opposite.

Which non-photographer has most influenced your creative style? Why?

To achieve a BFA in Photography from the University of Arizona, you had to attend six semesters of art history. At the time, I was really only interested in classes that were directly related to photography. My very first art history class happened to be Art History 101, which covered art from the caveman era to the present.

When the professor began covering the Baroque/Renaissance time period, to my surprise, I was totally captivated by how the painters … primarily Rembrandt … began the use of cross light to shape the face; building depth and revealing character in their subjects. For the first twenty five years as a commercial photographer, I used Rembrandt’s cross light approach on about 99% of my subjects. I now say, it is a wise thing to be a student of history.

When you need a creative kickstart, what does it for you?

For me, it is all about getting a subject in front of my lens. It is following the exploration and discovery process. That’s when the magic happens and the creative juices start flowing. If I had to wait for a brilliant creative idea to come ahead of time, I would be lost.

Want to know more about Joel? Check out his website and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Instagram.