Chris Grundy’s got the wandering eye.
He’s just one of those people who when you talk to sometimes, you can tell he’s distracted, looking over your shoulder and thinking about something else. Then he’s off. I’ve known Chris for a few years now, and “Where’s Chris?” is a constant companion. Any opportunity he just takes off, camera in hand, searching for something that may or may not be there. That’s what makes his photography so compelling. It’s curious, a work in progress, and you get the impression that Chris himself considers every wander as just a fragment of an ongoing picture, that may never end up whole.
Sydney native Chris started off shooting the ocean, a bit of surf, a little landscape, just because it was what was available to him at the time. “Dad had an old Nikon lying around that he hadn’t used since back in the day, so I put a roll through and got one image out of it, I had no prior knowledge,” Chris tells me over the phone. Since the first roll, it’s been a baptism of photographic fire for Chris. Meaning he’s tried pretty much all facets that the medium has to offer: surf, landscape, fashion, weddings, you name it. Chris appreciates that photography’s a discipline that you cannot master, therefore spending time at each of its variations can only result in a more rounded approach, especially if you’re lucky enough to be getting paid. For the last five years, Chris has been assisting MC favourite Jennifer Stenglein and says that a good mentor, whilst hard to find, is essential to your growth as a photographer. “I think it’s important to have someone that you look up to, especially in the early stages,” Chris tells me. “You learn so much more on set than in a book. I’m so thankful for Jen and her help.”
We’re not here for fashion, however. We’re here because five or so years ago, Chris took a trip to India that changed that way he approached photography. The trip was the first time that Chris had travelled solely with the purpose of making photos. “I did visual art at school and really enjoyed it and then started travelling after school,” he tells me. “India really kicked off my love for photography, and my inspiration was journalism. Alex Webb and the Magnum artists are probably my favourite.” The trip kickstarted Chris’ love of documenting his travels and has resulted in a hefty personal body of work, but what’s really significant about the trip is what it means to Chris in hindsight.
Chris recently re-discovered his India photos, years after his trip first took place. Having spent the time since working in the industry and shooting mainly digital, it’s re-ignited his love for the medium that he learnt his trade on—film. “India was the one trip that really had a major impact on my photographic understanding,” Chris explains. “I haven’t looked at the India work for like five years, and now I find all of these images that I love. I’ve rediscovered all these moments after working as a photographer for a few years. A little re-crop or re-edit here and there has just brought the photos to life for me.”
Chris’ re-discovery of his own work—sounds strange I know—has set him off through the archives. South America, Japan, the fruits of which you see scattered throughout this piece. But what the recent realisation has really done is make him take stock of all that’s happened since his fateful Indian trip, as well as re-surfacing some core principles of making thoughtful photos that may have been lost in the cross-fire of surviving as a modern creative. “I’m starting to slow things down, pick up a film camera and just go for a stroll in the city,” Chris says. “When I’m travelling my mindset is totally different to what it was. Things that I would’ve walked past, I now make photos of.”
So what’s next? The States for more commercial work and then a personal trip to Cuba, which Chris hopes will yield enough to warrant his first personal exhibition, something that’s been circling his mind since he first picked up his dad’s Nikon. Throughout all his work, Chris tells me that the thing that still brings him the most joy all trails back to northern India. “I’m lucky enough to have found something that I enjoy and every job I do is so rewarding,” says Chris. “But the best thing about it is seeing your personal work printed, that for me is that ultimate. People having your work in their homes is pretty cool.”