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VOL. 129 | NO. 91 | Friday, May 9, 2014

Art With Heart

Creation Studios brings love of storytelling to work

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A photography project done for Lipscomb & Pitts Insurance by Creation Studios owner Donny Granger illustrates his particular approach to creative work and to the way his photography studio and gallery operates.

Donny Granger gets a lighting check with help of assistant Philip Murphy at Creation Studios. Granger opened the business on Broad Avenue a few months ago.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Granger already knew the owners and leadership team at Lipscomb & Pitts, and he’d heard through the grapevine that the company was looking to do some renovations and give its office décor a facelift. He approached the company with an offer to help, and the result is a series of evocative Memphis-themed photographs that line the walls of the Lipscomb & Pitts office as a tribute to the city and as a conversation piece for clients and visitors.

“Knowing someone comes before selling to them,” said Granger, whose business has been open at 2655 Broad Ave. for a few months now and is preparing for a May 16 grand opening event. “Whenever I get to know someone, I’m able to tell their story better. I try really hard to know my client before I tell them what they ought to do, before I consult with them or sell them a product.

“In this case, I knew (Lipscomb & Pitts) loved Memphis, I knew they were renovating their building and they liked telling stories and had clients to their office all the time. So I approached them and had a conversation about what we could do. By the end of it, we had a commission where they invited me to just find Memphis.”

Granger was given a list of all the things that Lipscomb & Pitts chief manager Johnny Pitts loved about the city.

“My job was to kind of find it and tell the story, and he gave me freedom to just go,” Granger said.

The resulting photos include striking Downtown vistas and images of landmarks like Sun Studio, among other things. Creation Studios also is selling the prints, with proceeds benefiting the Memphis Fallen Officer Fund.

That project also is a kind of snapshot of Creation Studios’ philosophy, which is less about putting together an assembly line of clients to stick in front of a camera and more about opportunities to tell stories and produce work with emotional resonance.

The business includes a staff of three, plus contributions from an assortment of interns and freelance artists.

“We do photography, videography and branding,” Granger said. “We do everything from weddings to families to CEOs to marketing for commercial work. What I like to think sets us apart is the ability to see deeper, to find the heart of whatever it is we’re working with.

“We’ve spent years in the wedding industry learning how to craft a story to be emotional. And as we’ve ventured into the business world, that emotion we’ve cut our teeth on is still very appealing.”

The business was born from a side project Granger was looking to pursue on Saturdays. He was a teacher at the time and needed to make ends meet, and while he was never trained or took classes related to the business, he bought the best gear he could afford and started making videos for people.

The work quickly grew into a full-time second job in the early 2000s. In 2008, he jumped into it full-time. The business added photography to complement the video service, and Granger says it quickly became apparent that lots of commercial ventures were looking for something “with more heart.”

“Video had come a long way,” he said. “Everybody was now putting video on the Web, but companies were getting tired of the slick commercial stuff. So we had become good at the stuff people wanted all of a sudden.”

That “stuff,” as Granger explains it, involved using a unique voice to tell a story in a captivating way.

“Over a number of years, we learned how to go to an event and take something that is inherently emotional and tell stories of the heart really well,” Granger said. “Coming across as slick and sterile is not what anybody wants.

“We’re not a photography or video studio in the traditional sense. We’re a group of artists that love telling stories. There’s just something richer about starting with heart before product.”

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