Artist profile: Garth Grimmer
It’s difficult to find a swath of scenery on Nantucket that hasn’t met a photographer’s lens. Garth Grimmer knows this challenge well, having lived on the island for the last 20 years, but it’s a challenge that doesn’t bother him much. What drew Grimmer to Nantucket, and continues to captivate him, is the island’s inherent beauty—how, with the change of a season, the scenery can look so different, and he sees something new that strikes him.
“I was telling a friend of mine that I shoot from the gut, and looking at my waist he said, ‘In that case, Garth, you should shoot panoramics,’” Grimmer says with a laugh. “It’s really about my reaction to it,” he says of photographing a scene. “What I try to do is capture the beauty of the island. There’s so much nastiness in the world, and when you get a chance to show simple beauty, that’s what I like to do.”
Grimmer, born in India, came to America 50 years ago after living in England to work as an aeronautical engineer for General Electric. “When I came to America, I bought my first single-lens reflex camera,” he recalls, “and I figured I might as well travel around and take photographs, because I didn’t know how long I was going to stay here.” Not only did he end up staying put in the states, he also developed a love of photography.
Before moving to Nantucket full time, Grimmer, his wife, Jean, and their two children often sailed to the island and vacationed there. He remembers one time on the island when he took one of his favorite photos: “The family was walking on the beach—it was at Christmas time—and there was a buoy that had washed ashore. It was one of those huge, channel-marking buoys. I took a photograph of that, and that was the first photograph I took on Nantucket.” When Grimmer retired, his son suggested he take up photography more seriously—which he did, starting a website and joining the Artists Association of Nantucket.
In addition to his landscape photography, Grimmer also does a series of semi-abstract photography, called “Second Looks.” “If you look at them closely, you can tell what they are,” like a distorted shop window, the hull of a sailboat, or the vibrant foam brushes at a car wash. Nonetheless, Grimmer likes that these photos require closer examination and provoke greater contemplation. His ability to achieve the compositions and capture the colors of these images is a skill he attributes to growing up with his father. “My father was an artist, and when I was a young teenager, quite frequently he and I would go to the Tate gallery in London. We would look at paintings, and we would discuss the composition or what we liked about it,” he says. “I probably got an appreciation for two-dimensional art from him.”
Looking ahead, Grimmer says he plans to start photographing moonlight scenes, as he is drawn to moodier scenery. “The scenes that inspire me more are when it’s this big fog and there’s been a mist on the island—everything’s kind of soft.”
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