Jun 282010

Hi there Grant, thanks for taking the time to be part in an interview for vert.nu :-)

Can you tell us a little about yourself, (where and when you were born? Where do you live and work now?)

[singlepic id=366 w=320 h=240 float=left]I was born in Fallbrook, California in 1955. I am 54 and I live in Encinitas, California with my wife and 2 kids. I co-own and work at The Skateboard Mag in Solana Beach, Ca.

When did you start taking pictures and why did you start?

I started shooting photos in 1979 at the Del Mar Skate Ranch where I started working in 1978 and just borrowed my roommate’s camera and started shooting my friends and locals and visiting pros. It was just for fun and turned into a hobby and then my career.

Do you still use film or have you gone the whole way into digital?
a. (If digital) do you feel that it’s a bit like ”cheating” using digital (it is quite forgiving)?
b.If still film, why? What do you see as the positive and/or negative side’s of film

[singlepic id=361 w=320 h=240 float=right]For skating and the magazine, I shoot 100% digital. I still shoot film for my personal work on Hasselblad and Leica. Digital is not cheating, it’s just another tool in the paintbox. In magazine and commercial work it is a must, you would go out of business as a photog and a mag if you didn’t shoot digi. I still love film, it’s what I used exclusively for 20 something years. Film will always be here. It’s all photography, why be close-minded about new technology? I don’t want to be some grumpy old fart against The New. There were people against talking films back in the day.

In general, do you think that the quality in skateboard pictures has become better or worse with the era of digital?

[singlepic id=368 w=320 h=240 float=left]I don’t think skate photography has gotten worse with digi, but there are a lot more bad photographers. The masters are still shooting great photos, film and digital are just the means to an end. It’s still a photographic image, once it’s printed in a magazine, it’s digital anyways and nobody cares whether it’s film or digital. I really doubt if most people can tell tell the difference between the two unless there is some serious digi manipulation. The whole digi vs film debate is dead and has been for a few years now. It’s a non issue in professional circles now.

What’s your camera set up and are you a gadget nerd?

I shoot a Canon 5D Mark 2 and a Canon 1D Mark 2. Canon 15, 16-35, 50, 70-200 lenses. Hasselblad 503CW, Leica M6, Canon G10, a host of other cameras, old, plastic, etc. Qflashes for skating and Profoto in studio and Pocket Wizard Multi Max slaves. I am a bit nerdy, but I don’t spend much, I basically shoot the way I did 20 years ago.

[singlepic id=370 w=320 h=240 float=right]Do you still get a buzz from taking skate pictures?

There are those sessions you know are special. It can be the skater, the sky, the event. When it all comes together and you get that buzz you got when you started getting better in your early days.

Do you have a top 5 favourite pictures that you have taken?

Chris Miller Pole Cam, The Chin Ramp 4 handplants, Hosoi Powerslide, Gonzales Boneless, Swank Pushing

Who has been your top 5 favourite skaters to shoot and why?

[singlepic id=364 w=320 h=240 float=left]Tony Hawk, best skater who has ever lived
Chris Miller, style for 20 years
Mark Gonzales, invented street skating
Christian Hosoi,Lance Mountain and Steve Caballero for being heroes.
Duane Peters, he is just so RAW!

You visited Sweden during the 80s to cover one of the summer camps (1985 with Lance and Tony). What are your memories of Sweden and did you visit us more than that once?

Only went to the one in 1985. We went to the bar near the camp and were talking shit to some construction guys and it it turned out the were demolition workers and they worked with explosives and threatened to blow up our cabins. The food sucked at camp. Going for a ride in the demolition derby car with Bones graffiti that Tony and Lance had bought for a few hundred bucks.

[singlepic id=367 w=320 h=240 float=right]Do you you remember any of the Swedish skaters you met back then?

Martin Wilners, Puttis, Hans Gothberg, Slappo, Magnus, bunch of other dudes.

Are there any Swedish skaters (apart from the obvious ones like T Mag, Ringstrom and Welinder) that you think would have been able to make it as professionals in the states?

Puttis, Tony Janson, Per Viking?

Who are you influenced by or do you ‘go your own way’?

I was influenced by the 70s photogs. Cassimus, Bolster, Goodrich, Terrebonne, Friedman and Stecyk, I studied their photos in the mags and tried to figure out how they got the shot. I just figured it out by doing it, hit and miss and learning from my mistakes, some happy mistakes too. I just do what I want, try not to repeat myself.

Where and when was your last skate shot?

[singlepic id=365 w=320 h=240 float=left]I shot at Bucky’s Bowl a while back. I am shooting a lot of portraits. Shot filmer Greg Hunt in my studio last week.

What does the future hold for you?

A coffee table book, more photo shows, teaching kids photography, just doing more of my personal photography also, artsy stuff.

All the best Grant


We really would like to thank Grant for all the amazing pictures he has given us throughout the years as well as being nice enough to share a bunch of them with us for this interview as well as for the Lance Mountain interview. You can find more information about Grant and his photography on his site.


  3 Responses to “Interview: J. Grant Brittain”

  1. Wow, love the interview:)

  2. Great stuff! That b/w of Mullen (?) is pure art.

  3. Not every legend has to be a skater :) Grant is one hell of a great photographer and one really, really cool and friendly guy :)

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