When you’re on the outside of an industry trying to press your way in, it’s daunting. You’re stuck in the classic conundrum of needing to know someone on the inside, but not getting to meet anyone until you’re past the gatekeepers. It’s that sort of catch-22 that leads so many dreamers to quit before they even get started. They stand frozen, overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead.
This is especially true in freelance creative endeavors like photography — which lack a clearly defined structure to adopt. Finding a way into the concert photography scene isn’t easy and there are plenty of photogrpahers who would say, “I came up the hard way, so everyone else needs to do it that way, too.” But not Keith Griner. A multi-talented force, based in the Midwest, Griner can be seen photographing and getting video for corporate clients as often as he is for large-scale festivals and concerts.
Yet the reknowned artist still found time to talk with us about gear, networking, and the top tip he wishes someone would have given him when he was starting out. He also opened up about sobriety and divorce — revealing the sort of vulnerability that all the best photographers seem to share.
How did you get into photography?
I’m from Indiana. And I was born and raised in Columbus, Indiana. I went to a private Lutheran school growing up. And did normal school-age things like play baseball, football, basketball. I had a fairly normal life. I hear a lot of people talk about photography and they say “I’ve always loved to take pictures. And, it’s always been a passion of mine.” I don’t have that story. I never owned any cameras. I didn’t have anyone in my family that was a photographer that I looked up to or anything like that. I had a series of life events that sowed the seeds that led to me discover a passion.
An important part of my story that I’m always very vocal about is that I’ve been in recovery since 2007. That’s a big part of my life. It’s led to me living life differently, reacting to life differently, processing life differently. And, in 2011, I went through a divorce. I had this typical life with my wife and her son that I raised for five years and that was removed. I always like to try to deal with life in a positive manner and look for any way to process and deal with life’s occurrences in positive ways or with positive perspectives.
In November of 2011, I bought a point shoot camera for no particular reason. I was just trying to have something to take with me on vacation. That year for New Year’s I ended up going to a show in St. Louis, and I took my point and shoot camera. I had an absolute blast. I had so much fun taking pictures from the crowd. With the divorce being really, really new, I was looking for something to fill that void in my life and thought to myself that photography could really do that. I decided I was going to buy an SLR as soon as I could afford one and learn how to take pictures. In February of 2012, I bought my first camera. And, that’s where my passion for photography all began.