Creative Director Darhil Crooks of The Atlantic Chooses Grant Harder

January 31, 2014

By Darhil Crooks

© Grant Harder

Entrepreneur Jesse Willms photographed for <em>The Atlantic</em>.

Each issue of The Atlantic is completely different from the last and comes with it’s own set of difficult pieces to illustrate. We don’t do celebrities or food porn, we do stories about ideas and occasionally we do profiles of some pretty interesting characters. The January/February 2013 issue was no different.

The editors had been working on a profile about Jesse Willms, a young entrepreneur who had made and lost and made again a few fortunes by exploiting the world of the internet (he had been charged but never convicted of fraud). I had inquired about shooting Willms when I first heard about the piece, but that seemed like a longshot given the nature of the story as well as his reputation of being media shy. We didn’t hear anything and then the piece was put on the shelf. Once the editors decided to publish the piece months later, I had started making other plans to illustrate the piece (actually assigning it to an illustrator) when suddenly we got word that Willms had agreed to do a shoot.

I had to move fast to get things together. Willms lived in a Canadian suburb and I couldn’t fly someone up there so I needed a Canada-based photographer. Photo consultant Nancy Jo Iacoi sent me a link to photographer Grant Harder and I instantly knew that he was the guy. His use of natural light and color palette gave his images a dreamlike quality. It was a little quirky. It was perfect.

Once Grant read the piece, we talked about what I was looking for. Given the difficulty of getting the shoot set up and the fact that the subject was extremely camera shy (to put it mildly), I literally would’ve been happy with anything, but at the very least I needed a portrait. Grant headed over to the agreed upon location and did the shoot.  

I nervously waited a few days and then Grant sent me what he got. It wasn’t a huge edit but I was blown away. He was able to see stuff that I don’t think another photographer in that situation would’ve been able to see. The manipulation of the light, the cropping and the color were amazing. The shot I ended up running on the opener (attached below) was particularly amazing. I had to fight for it a little bit, but it might be my favorite photo I’ve commissioned for The Atlantic.  You can see more of Grant Harder’s work at his site,