Interview by Jay Batlle
Interview by Jay Batlle
“I MADE THE MISTAKE FOR SOME TIME OF FEELING THAT COMMERCIALISM
DISQUALIFIED SERIOUS ART, THAT I HAD TO HAVE AN MFA, AND THAT
THE MOTIVATION SOMEHOW HAD TO BE PURE. OF COURSE THIS ISN'T TRUE.”
— GRAEME MITCHELL
I’ve always avoided getting too close with my neighbors. It’s an unspoken rule in NYC: keep to yourself but always be companionable. The ones with whom I’ve been able to transcend this iron code are friends for life.
New York is all or nothing / Graeme is my friend for life.
The front doors to our Brooklyn apartments faced each other in the psychedelic purple hallway of the Chocolate Factory. Behind those doors were our respective studios—Graeme’s darkroom and my painting place. Before we knew each other, I always seemed to be going out around the same time that my Canadian neighbor began his daily street photography. Day after day our doors opened simultaneously, and we were facing each other, buttoning our coats. Then one spring day as I was leaving to take my lurcher Seymour for a walk, we started talking, and we haven’t stopped since.
Thereafter, our solitary routines seemed to merge naturally into seeing each other and chatting about what we were seeing. Mainly art. Graeme’s work was the first street photography I’d seen in years which spoke to me. I ended up looking forward to grabbing some cold beers in the store downstairs and shooting the shit with Graeme. Getting home was no problem: we just took the elevator and parted on our respective thresholds, still talking.
Graeme has since relocated to Los Angeles. We caught up recently over a long lunch at the Soho House in West Hollywood.
Jay Batlle: I’m having a Peroni? You?
Graeme Mitchell: Yeah, great, two of those. It’s hot. Nineties in February is bananas. It’s nice up here though! It is rare to have such an elevated view of this city.
JB: Please don’t remind me. Brooklyn has been brutal this winter. Okay, so when did you first start making photographs?
GM: At the age of 11 or 12. My dad was into tech, so there were old cameras around the house that I’d play with. I figure at that age a camera was a cool object, like a boom-box or a sword, but for whatever reason I was serious about using it or performing with it. I’d direct my brothers in these scenes—neon sunglasses, roller skates, the works. It was playing.
JB: When and how did you start making portraits?
GM: Right from that start. It’s what I assumed cameras were for, to photograph people. I didn’t take pictures of anything else for years. After my brothers, I moved on to portraits of friends. I did this, I’d say, throughout high school. It was my way to connect with people, to show affection. The actual photographs didn’t matter. That would come much later. My portraits as work began after moving to NYC and meeting editors who spotted this natural direction.
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