Filmmaker Robin Greenberg celebrates the life and art of avant-garde New Zealand photographer and publisher Grant Sheehan and his creative Artificial Intelligence (AI) explorations
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
For more than four decades, Wellington-based photographer Grant Sheehan has made his way in the world through images. Where many photographers find longevity in laser-focused speciality, he is one of the few that has managed to thrive by expanding his style ever wider. Spinning yarns as though to an acquaintance on the neighbouring barstool, Sheehan recounts his own exceptional career in this charming documentary.
A prolific creative, the photographer has published more than 24 books, as well as having work in magazines, museums, and exhibitions around the globe. He may not have the name recognition of those in the pantheon of great New Zealand photographers, but there’s a good chance many Kiwis have at some point enjoyed the photos of Grant Sheehan without realising it.
His style is characterised by a roving inquisitiveness. Whatever subject catches his eye—lighthouses, heritage architecture, penguins—becomes his world until the creative impulse is thoroughly satisfied. What starts as an interest in Wellington’s early coffee culture, for instance, evolves into an international cafe book, and then a series of books on hotels of the world, published internationally.
In an increasingly digital world, Sheehan has doubled down in an area where physical media still holds dominance; the appreciation of art. Not just a busy author of his own books, he’s established his own publishing house in Phantom House Books. But don’t mistake print appreciation for intransigence, he’s often ahead of the curve when it comes to change. Early adoption of drone photography and engaging with AI well before current day’s panic reveal an artist both innovative and classic.
With the intimacy of a cosy camera club meetup, accompanied by a dynamic score, Greenberg’s creative documentary delves into Sheehan's extraordinary career the only way that makes sense – through his own unique lens and artistry.
— Adrian Hatwell