Grant Palmer regularly points his camera at L.A.’s communities of diversity and culture, and that keeps him on the fringes and edges of the city – all the places “that make life really, really interesting.”
AFLW: What are you drawn to as a photographer? What do you look for? How do you know that something is going to happen?
Grant Palmer: It’s hard to describe. You get used to watching people and what they’re about to do. All photography is a prediction. There is a time delay between thought, pushing the button and the shutter releasing — you’re guessing, you’re predicting it will be right in the camera. So you watch people. The woman behind you is writing furiously in her journal with a pencil, the light’s interesting. At some point, she is going to look up and think — and that’s when I want to be there.
AFLW: What is your photo essay, “The Fringe,” saying about our theme of “Life’s Rich Pageant?”
GP: For me, it’s all of the stuff that happens on the edges and on the fringe that makes life really, really interesting. Art is only pushed forward by the cutting edge; you don’t get progression without it. Roller derby and fire performance are part of that and my photographs honor these people while admiring the skill, passion and beauty with which they do it.
AFLW: Most of these photographs have a strong sense of motion. What are you expressing with that movement?
GP: Well, life is movement; you stand still — things happen in motion. Bodies and faces look different when they are moving than when they are staged or posed. Movement tells a story and gives the viewer an anticipation of what’s about to happen or wonder what’s going to happen next. In the roller derby photo, as the skater is looking ahead toward the pack, she’s planning her approach and you can see that in her.
AFLW: How has Los Angeles honed your practice as a photographer?
GP: L.A. gives me the opportunity to do a lot of different types of photography because of its diversity of people, but it’s also that cultures have enough people to form communities, so you can find them — like fire performance troupes, roller derby leagues. Also, fire photography and roller derby push my buttons because they are technically difficult. They are both fast, ephemeral, and I have to make hard artistic and technical choices — on-demand, in a fraction of a second — until it becomes instinctual. It’s kind of like street photography on steroids.
AFLW: L.A. is perceived to be such a youth culture and you chose to feature the elderly, The Red Hatters, in one of your photographs.
GP: I chose this photo because it was shot in Los Angeles but also because they’re women of a certain age who want to get out and enjoy whatever they do. As one gets older, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are left alone quietly. I’ve known several Red Hatters and they are happy and content, unapologetically themselves — and to a certain extent that is fringe in L.A.
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Grant Palmer is a Los Angeles-based fine arts and portrait photographer. He is also a league photographer for the Los Angeles Derby Dolls. As a fire performance photographer, he was selected as an inaugural documentarian for the Burning Man Fire Conclave Council. Follow him at Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram and visit his website.