“No technical process or technique can create an artistic expression; this is reserved for the creative mind.” -Joel Grimes

Artist, photographer

Joel Grimes, photographerJoel Grimes is a world-class commercial photographer with clients ranging from Abbott Labs, Archer Daniels Midland, AT&T to Nikon, Pentax, Proctor & Gamble to Sturm Ruger & Company, USA Boxing, Volvo, Red Bull and Xcel Energy. His assignments have taken him to every state in the U.S. and to over 50 other countries.

Joel considers himself an artist who is an illusionist. He creates portraits that are larger-than-life. Joel says “There is no face on the planet that is the same, and my vision as an artist is to capture that individual uniqueness through the creative photographic process.”

Joel has always had a love of art. At his first art class in middle school, he got validation that creativity and the creative process could be a real job. He discovered photography during his freshman year in high school. By the time he got to the University of Arizona where he earned a BFA, photography was his all-consuming passion.

“Navajo, Portrait of a Nation”

Joel published his first coffee table book in 1992. The work was featured in a solo exhibition at the Smithsonian American History Museum. It ran for 18 months.

The Joel Grimes look

His career in making powerful portraits took off as he traveled the nation and the world with his 4×5 view camera and shooting Polaroid type 55 film that produced instant prints and a negative. This was the “it” look for several years and propelled Grimes to the top of the commercial photography world.

Suddenly, it came to an end. His look was no longer “it.” Grimes had to reinvent his work in the changing environment of digital photography. At one point he realized that he could use digital post-production to build his new gritty, emotional, in-your-face-larger-than-life style of making portraits. He puts it this way, “I stood up and said I’m no longer a photographer. I’m an artist with a set of tools.” 

His artistry lies in being able to create photographs that are both real and have elements of fantasy. He goes on to say “I remember sharing some of my early composites with colleagues and friends, and they went crazy, saying it wasn’t true photography.

“They would say, ‘You’re no longer a photographer; you’re now an illustrator.’ People told me that I had jumped ship and was no longer a purist. A purist would say I’m a large-format photographer and I contact-print.”

Taking stock

“I had to ask myself, What’s the most important thing that I do? I’m an artist, and I have all these tools. I have a camera. I’m an artist that uses photography as my tool to create. And I’m still doing that. The goal is to make an impact with an image and tell a story in this fast-paced trendy environment.”

Grimes realized that the days of big ad budgets were gone. He learned to do his new-look portraits in fast-paced ways so he could photograph an athlete in an hour in a hotel lobby. His 35 years of professional work means he can create to his high standards no matter how short the time window may be.

Joel Grimes continues to challenge himself with personal assignments to evolve new techniques and looks that fit the ever-evolving needs of clients searching for the new “it.”

Joel has several classes on his style of making photographs here.

Great prizes every month can be yours! Enter Photofocus Celebrates 21 today

Read more On Photography stories of influential and inspiring photographers