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We had a chat with Denis Grau on his latest photography project, "Human Society".

Can you share with us a little bit about yourself and what do you do?

When not traveling, photographing or skateboarding, I work in an advertising agency in Kempten, Germany. I am an art director and copywriter.

What was your background in photography?

Actually I am a self taught photographer. But photography, imagery and composition is a big part of my daily business and I am really into design, art, fashion, architecture and of course photography. This stuff also takes a huge role in my life.

What was your first experience with the camera?

I started photography about ten years ago and when I dropped out German Army, I could afford my first camera. As long as I could remember, I always was into magazines and art books. So I thought, why not try taking pictures by myself.

Do you remember the first bunch of photographs you took? What was that like?

Well, the first bunch of photographs were probably images of buildings. I really love architecture but most of the architectural images look quite the same. So I tried to involve people in every of my images.

How has your photography evolved over the years and what have you learnt from it?

It evolved from pure architecture photography to street- and documentary photography. Because I have learned, that humans are the most interesting thing to photograph.

What kind of art direction do you do, can you share with us a little bit more about your job.

So the biggest part of my job is to develop corporate designs and campaigns for the clients. Especially when developing a corporate design, image style and imagery is very important. So it helps a lot to be a photographer and dealing with photography for such a long time.

What does art direction teach you about photography and what does photography teach you about art direction?

Well, I guess art direction helps to develop some kind of unique image style and the total idea of the project. How the pictures should look like and what they should communicate. In contrast, photography teaches you a lot about how to see people and things. The ugliest things can look beautiful in the right light or perspective.

Let's chat about Human Society,

Year: 2012 – today

Location: Germany, France, China, Israel, Japan, Vietnam ond more

Total number of photographs taken for this project:

Hard to say. I guess about 3000 to 5000.

How was the project conceptualised?

Well I guess, people do the weirdest things. Especially when they feel alone or unobserved. I think, everyone knows that, because we do that too.

Can you share with me some of the most memorable experiences you shot that ended up being in this project?

One of the weirdest moments was on a hike to Germany’s highest mountain, the „Zugspitze“. When we reached the peak, I saw this couple sitting totally relaxed under a pink umbrella. It was such an unrealistic scene and I’m pretty sure, they took the cable car up the mountain. And of course the woman in the red dress sitting all alone in the dark doing absolutely nothing. So after a few minutes I asked her if everything is fine. She said she just waits for her mother-in-law to leave the apartment. Such a funny and at the same time sad answer.

Why did you decide to call it human society?

The name tells what it is about: Humans. It does not matter what they believe, where they come from, how old they are, etc. We are all just humans.

This project is a collection of everyday human, everyday experiences and human behaviour, what does it teaches you about photographing people at its most fleeting?

You have to be fast and know your camera. But for me, the biggest thing you can learn, is to develop a good instinct for the human behavior. For example, if you see a child passing by a lot of pigeons, there is a great chance that it will run and chase them away.

What are you up to these days?

I am recently working on a project about Kempten, my hometown. It is the oldest city in Germany. But the pictures do not show the historical or beautiful side but the ugly ones. And for this project, I decided not to show people.

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