In Profile

Charlie Griffin

By Jean Dykstra, September 1, 2014

Photo by Michael Vorrasi

Third Avenue near Sixth Street in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn was, not too long ago, part of an industrial stretch of auto repair shops, taxi lots, and oil company offices. Now there’s a block-long Whole Foods, a Pilates Garage, and a Four and Twenty Blackbirds pie shop. It’s also where Griffin Editions moved its Brooklyn location in December, when it lost its lease in Williamsburg, sharing a building with Blind Spot magazine.

A fine art photographic printing and mounting studio with offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn, Griffin Editions was founded in 1996 when Charlie Griffin wanted to make large silver gelatin prints of his own work. The studio began at 380 Broadway, but Griffin was soon given the opportunity to move into a loft space at 390 Broadway, where the Manhattan studio remains today. “I had a couple of artists,” says Griffin, “and then the lease changed over and got more expensive, so I needed more artists, and it kept growing from there.” From its beginnings as a one-man operation Griffin Editions is now a team of 28 that prints for such clients as Clifford Ross, Len Prince, Vik Muniz, Cindy Sherman, Shirin Neshat, Roe Ethridge, and Hiroshi Sugimoto.

The Manhattan studio does black-and-white analog printing, specializing in mural-sized optical prints and film, while the Gowanus studio, a glass-fronted space with a gallery in the front, produces C-prints, pigment prints, laser-exposed silver gelatin prints, and does scanning, and retouching. Griffin Editions and Blind Spot mounted their first gallery show in the Brooklyn space this spring, Staring At The Sun, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Blind Spot. Griffin says he plans to use the gallery space going forward for events and exhibitions.

A Queens, New York, native, Griffin always had a camera with him when he was a kid, on vacation or skateboarding or roaming the neighborhood. He went to NYU to study business, but recalls, “My last year, I looked around and everyone looked dead to me, so I felt dead myself. I decided, this is not my thing.” He transferred to Gallatin, which was NYU’s University Without Walls at the time. “That was great for me,” he says. Griffin took photography at Gallatin, and he also managed the tennis courts, and one evening he heard that a fashion shoot was taking place there. “I went to watch, and I met the photographer, and I eventually became his assistant,” he says. Griffin began taking fashion photographs, did some work with Bruce Weber, and became a freelance fashion photographer for a time. Ultimately, he says he didn’t see a future for himself in fashion photography, so he started printing and doing his own artwork. “There always seem to be new challenges coming up,” says Griffin. “Often there are artists who push us out of our comfort zone quite a bit, and we welcome that. They come in with a vision, and we have to figure out how to get there. What’s possible, and how can we do it?”

For the most part, says Griffin, his studio tends to work with artists using photography rather than traditional photographers. “They’re more playful with the medium,” he observes. “We call ourselves an extension of their studios — we embrace what the artist wants and try to fulfill their needs.”