Joe Grant and the Art of Running

Hannah Green talks to Joe Grant about why he’s drawn to black and white photography and how art and running interplay in his life.

By on April 4, 2024 | Comments

Joe Grant! Joe Grant is a trail running artistic icon. His photography goes beyond the typical landscape scenery and into a more thoughtful and creative realm in powerful black-and-white imagery: long exposures of water, the contrasting bark of aspen trees, moody storms, and a hint that he’s always on foot or bike when taking the images.

I’ve gotten to know him since he moved to the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado, and he’s always philosophizing about art, nature, and the why. Spending long nights with Joe at the Kroger’s Canteen aid station during the Hardrock 100, I’ve appreciated his energy and outlook on the world and our sport.

Here’s Joe Grant in his own words:

Joe Grant during the 2017 Hardrock 100. Photo: Steven Gnam

Joe Grant during the 2017 Hardrock 100. Photo: Steven Gnam

-what’s your medium? and why black and white photography? (it was my mom’s favorite, she’d never shoot in color.)

Mainly photography and adjacent work (bookmaking, picture framing). Writing and filmmaking have also been a part of my work over the years. I like the multidisciplinary approach.

As far as black and white photography goes, I love the timeless aesthetic and how “seeing” in black and white changes how I look at the world. My attention is drawn to light and shadows, to more abstract compositions and nuances that sometimes get lost when working in color. I also find that sticking to one camera or lens or a given style for a prolonged period of time expands rather than restricts my creative outlook.

-what artists have inspired you? what runners/athletes/movers have inspired you?

That’s a hard question to answer succinctly as there are so many people who have and continue to inspire me such as Andy Goldsworthy, Chip Thomas, poets Gary Snyder and Ada Limón, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Daidō Moriyama, Andre D. Wagner, Michael Kenna, and the list goes on. I’ve been listening to a lot of Miles Davis and Tommy Guerrero while working on photos. My close friends inspire me, my grandparents, and really just being in nature.

Joe Grant photo Grand Canyon

All following photos courtesy of Joe Grant.

-how did you get into running? and art?

The simplicity of running appealed to me most initially; covering long distances in wild places with minimal equipment. That’s what drew me to running in my late teens and has kept me interested ever since.

My grandpa gave me my first camera when I was 12 years old. He showed me how to use it and told me to “focus on the details and shoot a lot of film.” I didn’t heed his advice until years later when I could actually afford to buy film, but my interest in photography was piqued and the camera held special significance for me from that day on.

-how do you see art and running as being related? how has your relationship with both evolved over time?

For me, both practices relate in that they are process rather than result-driven. I find myself most engaged when I’m truly in the moment, immersed in my environment, whether that’s making pictures or running down a trail.

I find that my relationship with art and running has come full circle. I try to focus on the original spark, that energy that got me excited in the first place, trying to keep a fresh perspective and follow my curiosity. I think that both running and art can be simple sources of joy in an otherwise pretty chaotic world.

Joe Grant Photo La Plata

-what’s your favorite mode of transportation besides running?

I’ve always loved riding bikes. Bikes bring me equal enjoyment to running and have led me on many wild adventures.

-favorite color?

Depends on my mood. I’d say yellow today.

Joe Grant photo - paw print on tree

-random question: if you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be? 

An aspen. I find them beautiful in every season. Aspen groves are interconnected through a shared root system. They have a cool, calming effect in the summer heat and wonderful colors in the fall, and they’re fun to weave through on a board in the winter.

-where’s your favorite place to see local art where you live?

Silverton Powerhouse of course! I also enjoy the chalk artist on the main street in Durango where I live.

Call for Comments

  • Do you have a favorite runner who’s also a photographer?
  • How does photography factor into your running?

Joe Grant photo dive

Joe Grant photo - snake

Joe Grant photo - La Plata

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Hannah Green
Hannah Green wanders long distances by foot and takes photos along the way. When not outside, you can likely find her at the nearby coffee shop. Find more on Instagram and at Hannah Green Art.