Kris Grunert: Visionary Photographer Bridging Nature and Tech
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Kris Grunert: Visionary Photographer Bridging Nature and Tech

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Date: September 13

By: Pam Voth

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View Kris Grunert’s NFTs on Sloika

All photos by Kris Grunert

Kris Grunert is a photographer and director based in Canada, who seamlessly bridges the gap between the ethereal and the built environment. His lens captures unique visions of the world, urging us to see beyond the ordinary. Kris's clientele includes global leaders in industries like architecture, energy, technology, and real estate development including GE, Google, and Nike. His work has been featured in major publications such as The Wall Street Journal. But Kris's work transcends the boundaries of commerce; it resonates on a deeply personal level as he explores the connection he perceives between nature and technology.

A Path Less Traveled

Kris Grunert's story begins in the heart of the Canadian prairies, just outside the small city of Yorkton, Saskatchewan. This province, nestled above North Dakota, is known for its vast, sparsely populated landscapes and endless farmlands. Growing up on a farm in this idyllic setting, Kris developed a profound connection to nature that would become the cornerstone of his photographic journey.

"Those early years on the farm," Kris reflects, "were instrumental in shaping my deep-rooted connection to nature. It's hard not to feel connected to the Earth when you're surrounded by endless fields, under the brilliant night sky, with the Northern Lights dancing overhead. It's where I first felt that sense of wonder and awe."

But it wasn't just the natural world that intrigued Kris. His father's occupation as a grain farmer introduced him to the world of large machines, notably the towering combine harvesters that dominated the landscape. The young Kris found himself captivated by these industrial behemoths, marking the beginning of his fascination with the interplay between nature and technology.

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From Rural Roots to Urban Exploration

As Kris grew older, he embarked on a journey that led him from the serene prairies of Saskatchewan to the bustling cityscape of Vancouver. This transition, from the simplicity of rural life to the complexities of city living, ignited a spark within him.

"Moving to the city was a stark contrast," Kris recalls. "My first 18 years were spent in the lap of nature, surrounded by wide-open spaces. Suddenly, I found myself in a densely populated urban environment. It was a fascinating shift."

This contrast, the duality of nature and machine, would become a recurring theme in Kris's work. His rural upbringing, steeped in natural beauty, juxtaposed with the bustling metropolis of Vancouver, triggered a fascination with technology and the cityscape. This fascination found its expression through the lens of his camera.

A Serendipitous Start

Kris's journey into photography was somewhat serendipitous. At a young age, during a family road trip to South Dakota, he took his very first photograph—a shot of a massive open-pit mine nestled within a small town. Little did he know that this seemingly ordinary moment would become a symbolic marker for his future in photography.

"I didn't remember that photograph for the longest time," Kris admits, "but it resurfaced during an assignment for a mining company. It was a surreal moment of realization."

From that initial photograph of a mine in South Dakota, Kris's photographic journey took an unexpected turn. After a detour through the world of skateboarding, he found himself back on track, driven by an unexplainable pull towards photography. He moved to Vancouver, where he rediscovered his passion, eventually enrolling in a photography program at Langara College.

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The Signature Style: Nature Meets Machine

Kris Grunert's photographic style is a captivating fusion of the natural world and industrial elements. It's a harmonious blend that mirrors his own life journey, from the simplicity of rural landscapes to the complexity of urban living.

"I've always been drawn to both sides of this duality," Kris explains. "The natural world, with its pristine beauty, and the industrial world, with its intricate machines and structures. Photography allows me to explore the intersection of these two realms."

This unique style shines through his work, whether he's capturing the grandeur of an industrial site or the tranquility of a natural landscape. It's a testament to his ability to see the beauty in both worlds and convey that vision through his lens.

A Curious Mind and a Sense of Wonder

At the heart of Kris's approach to photography lies curiosity and wonder. Whether he's on a commercial assignment or embarking on a personal project, he remains in awe of the world around him. It's this sense of wonder that fuels his creativity and enables him to create images that transcend the ordinary.

"I approach photography with a sense of childlike wonder," Kris shares. "It's about tapping into that feeling of amazement, allowing myself to appreciate the world's complexities, and capturing moments that evoke that same wonder in others."

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Photography as a Spiritual Practice

While Kris's commercial work and personal projects may appear distinct on the surface, they share a common thread—a spiritual connection to the art of photography. His personal work, often characterized by intuitive journeys into the night or the heart of nature, holds a special place in his artistic expression.

"It's deeply personal," Kris reflects. "I may not always have a specific message in mind when I start, but the process itself is a spiritual journey. It's about connecting with the world, capturing light and color, and allowing the story to unfold organically."

Kris's personal work often reveals unexpected stories and lessons, offering glimpses into his own growth and understanding. Much like his journey up a desert dune with a camera and flash, these experiences teach him that sometimes the journey itself is the destination.

Unlocking the Creative Mystery: Kris Grunert's Photography as Meditation

Kris Grunert's journey through photography has always been about more than just capturing images. It's a spiritual quest, an exploration of the mysteries of creation. As he reflects on his process, Kris remarks, "It's like discovering something about your own work, your own workflow, and your own creative process. It's fulfilling yet still shrouded in a sense of mystery. What does it mean? What have I done?" This curiosity, this sense of exploring the unknown, has been a driving force in his career.

One project that exemplifies this creative quest is his "Photography as Meditation" endeavor. Kris acknowledges that, for years, his goal was for viewers to connect with his photographs on a deep, emotional level. However, as he matured in his craft and in life, he felt a desire to share his process and insights. "I'm in this mode of wanting to teach or pass on knowledge," Kris explains. "I don't want to leave it up to the viewer to just hope they feel that connection."

Kris has developed what he calls the "six tenets of photography as meditation." These guiding principles are designed to help others tap into the meditative and transformative potential of photography. The tenets include exploring without expectation, observing with curiosity, employing all five senses, seeing the play of light and shadow, letting go, and expressing gratitude.

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Preserving the Giants: The Old Growth Project

Another project that reflects Kris's passion for both nature and technology is the "Old Growth Project." This collaborative effort aims to protect and digitally preserve ancient trees using cutting-edge Lidar scanning technology. In Canada, these majestic old-growth trees are not protected and face the threat of being cut down daily.

The project involves creating digital twins of these ancient trees using Lidar scanners that capture every detail of the tree's structure. The resulting point cloud data is incredibly precise and visually striking. The team's hope is to attach NFTs to these digital trees, essentially creating a digital representation of the tree's value. This innovative approach could potentially help conserve these ancient giants.

Kris acknowledges that the project is ambitious and faces challenges related to the industry, government, and economics surrounding these trees. However, the team's dedication to merging the digital world with nature through blockchain technology underscores their commitment to conservation.

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