Geof Griggs is one of Nagoya’s best photographers. Nagoya Players first started working with Geof for our 2015 production of Psychic. We were amazed by Geof’s photos back then and he continues to impress. Most recently, he did a stunning series of photographs for our 2019 production of Aesop’s Fables. We’re still receiving many praises for the fabulous work he’s done. He’s coming back for another session for our winter production of The Gift of the Magi. We had a sneak peak at some of the early photos, they’ll blow you away! Geof was kind enough to sit down for an interview to discuss his background and his work with Nagoya Players.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thanks for the great intro Shawn! You’re always too kind. I came to Japan for a one year visit in 1998. Like many of the gaijin living here long term, I didn’t come with the intention of making a life here. But, that’s what happened.
You’re an amazing photographer! Please tell us how you got started?
Thanks again. I first became interested in photography in high school. I took photography as an elective class, and a friend and I ended up buying a used enlarger and creating a darkroom in his bathroom. We bought bulk film loaders and developed and enlarged black and white film. Mostly, we made time-lapse photos, did double exposures, or just looked for trippy stuff to photograph.
After high school I didn’t do much photography until coming to Japan. At that time another photographer friend gave me her old Canon AE-1 film camera to take to Japan with me. Coming to Japan reawakened my interest in photography and I just took photos of all the exotic looking stuff around me. At first, my photos were mostly landscape, nature and street style. When my daughter was born, I got my first digital camera, a Canon EOS Rebel, and my first “pro” lens, a Canon f/2.8 24-70 zoom.
No longer having to worry about the cost of film and developing I took thousands of photos of my daughter, and realized I enjoyed taking photos of people, too! That led to doing family shoots for others, shooting events at my school, covering festivals and so on. Once I started posting on Instagram, some local models contacted me, and I got into doing portrait photography. And, of course, I have had the theater connection since you first contacted me in 2015 about shooting the dress rehearsal for Psychic.
Any advice for aspiring photographer and Models?
The market is so flooded now with photographers and models, and people post so much stuff, that it is hard to get noticed. And, I think it is very hard to make a living off of photography or modeling with so much competition. (I would be homeless if not for my teaching job.) So, I say just do it if you love it, and aim to please yourself, rather than others.
The likes and subscribers scene in social media can be pretty harsh and discouraging, and the internet is not a good judge of value. So, rather than focus on social media, I think it’s better to actually meet people in your local community and make connections that way.
Ultimately, finding a community to work with is going to be much more satisfying than striving for fame on YouTube or Instagram or any of the others. That’s one thing I really like about working with Nagoya Players. I can feel like I’m doing my little part in supporting the community, and the feedback I get from that is more meaningful than all the thumbs from strangers.
Do you have a website?
How did you get involved with Nagoya Players?
I was first contacted by you about shooting the dress rehearsal for Psychic in 2015. I didn’t know you at that time, so I guess you heard about me from Robert Beatty? Anyway, that was my first time doing a theater shoot. It was really enjoyable as the lighting is already set up, and I was free to move around and find my angles. I really enjoyed it as the actors go through a range of emotions and expressions, and the dramatic lighting adds to the effect. I also really like the idea of community theater, as it’s a chance for people with different talents to get together and produce something to share with the community. I’m too shy to get up on a stage, and the time commitment would be too great for me, but I’m happy that I can contribute in some way with my photography. I tend to be a recluse, so this photography connection has gotten me out of my house and made me be more social, and I’ve met a lot of great people in the process.
What are the challenges of photographing a theatrical performance?
As a photographer, I come into the theater not really knowing the story or the timing for the scenes. I don’t really know when the dramatic scenes will happen, or when there will be lulls. I’m not sure how long each actor will be on stage, what the lighting will be like, etc. so it’s hard to know where I should be for each scene, what angle I should be shooting from, whether it’s better to frame tightly on faces, or use a wider lens to get the whole stage. Of course, I get an overview first from the director, but I don’t know the play inside and out the way the regular members do. So, that’s a challenge, but I also think it gives me a fresh perspective (like that of the audience, who are seeing the play for the first time). Everything is new and exciting, and once I put my eye to the shutter, I become absorbed in the moment. Occasionally I am in the wrong spot, or shooting from the wrong angle to catch some key moments, so that is definitely one of the challenges, but challenges make photography interesting for me.
Any upcoming plans or projects?
I’m always shooting something, and looking for new ideas. If anyone has an interesting idea and is looking for a photographer, let me know!
Thank you for your time Geof! We look forward to seeing your new photos!
And here’s a sneak peak at some photos from of The Gift of the Magi photo shoot! More coming Soon!!
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Interview by Shawn Mahler