Tell us about yourself. My name is Jonathan Grado. I once worked in an amusement park and I will give full access to my wallet for a good peanut butter cookie.
At the age of 24, you are the vice-president of marketing at Grado Labs and a photography enthusiast. How did the family business responsibility reflect your life? Grado has been family-owned for 62 years now. We were founded in 1953, in a building my family has owned since 1918. Both Grado and our family have not only roots in Brooklyn, but tradition and a strong heritage. We like to treat our listeners like they’re family. Just like a family recipe might be passed down from a great-grandmother, we make sure to keep with our traditions: focus on sound first and foremost, without letting fads get in the way.
Share with us about your travel and your perspective on photography. Do you have a signature style when shooting? I’ve been using photography as a creative outlet for the past two decades. Although admittedly I had no clue what I was doing in those early years; my first photo was ambushing my dad as he was shaving his mustache in 1995. Do I remember taking it? Not at all. Do I still have it? Absolutely (which is clearly due to my mom knowing I would bring it up twenty years later). Now travelling isn’t just about finding the best food, but it’s about getting the best photos of that food (just kidding!). I’m not sure if I have a specific style of shooting, but lately I have been leaning towards using my 14mm and 56mm.
From your website and work, it’s clear that you have such an amazing eye for photography. Do you ever think about pursuing a career in photography? Thank you! That means a lot. Photography isn’t my first focus, since Grado comes first. It’s just a passionate hobby of mine. My parents tell me I should look into doing more photography, but right now, doing it for Grado and personal is enough for me. Maybe one day, when I have more time.
Does music play an important role in your daily life? What’s your favourite music? "What is your favourite music" is probably the toughest question I get on the most frequent basis. I have songs ranging from all types of artists, to genres, to decades, that bring up all different types of memories. Mostly great, some not as pleasant. But what I think is amazing is that there’s something so accessible, especially now, that has that power. If I had to choose something that meant a great deal to me, I would choose ‘70s music because that’s what my mom would play in the car as we drove anywhere. And does music play an important role daily? 100 per cent yes! I work, edit, and type twice as fast when I’m listening to music, when I don’t accidentally type the lyrics to the song, that is.
Grado Labs has never done any paid advertisement. How does the brand travel? By word-of-mouth. That’s the only way people know we exist. There’s something rewarding about knowing a person found out about our family’s passion because their friend told them about us. It’s a lot on one plate most of the time, but it’s not anything I would ever trade in.
The mobile photography community is growing big currently. What’s your view(s) on that? Anything that strengthens a community should be seen as a good thing. Find a photographer’s Instagram feed you enjoy and scroll back to their early photos, most of the time you’ll see a big difference between then and now. That growth is something exciting to witness, whether it’s your friends or even your own. Through a series of fortunate events, I recently became friends with Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger; he visited to build a pair of Grados and I visited their campus for some ice cream. He’s a nice, down-to-earth guy; the future of mobile photography seems to be in good hands.
What’s your inspiration(s) in photography? Music. I had Grado start #InspiredBySound takeovers recently to put a spotlight on what can come of music and photography working together. Some use music and sounds to inspire what they want to shoot, whereas others play music that matches the themes of their post-production goals (Moody photo? Moody music).
How’s life in New York? Take us through the 24 hours in the life of Jonathan Grado. New York is crowded, fast-paced and painted with a culture not many cities can tout. My routine can change on a daily basis. On some days, I’m at the office training my ear with my dad, some days I’m building phono cartridges, and some days, I’m working from wherever I can get work done. Talking to Grado users and eating good food are staples though. They are two items I’d like to keep on my daily to-do list.
What’s your favorite country and city? I don’t know if I want to play favourites, but I will say going through mountains recently with some friends in Washington state was gorgeous, with and without fog.
What do you think is the best season to shoot in New York? And which part of the city you find most interesting? My favourite time to shoot in New York also happens to be my least favorite time to travel here: winter. A very close second is autumn. I love the tight streets here, especially some of the old cobblestone ones left in Brooklyn. My answer would completely change though if you asked, “Where do you like to drive in the city?”
Any travel plans coming up? Before the year is over, I think I’m going to Austin, Texas for the first time with my younger brother. In early 2016, I’m hoping to get to Australia for the first time as well.
This interview appears in Musotrees Vol 2, The Inexperienced Issue.
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