Grace Burns in conversation with Guia Ortolani
I was taken by the captions of her Instagram profile, which are never trivial, and by that deep, attentive gaze that reveals an early maturity. Her name suggests a gentle elegance. On set everyone loves her; she is sweet and playful, but also serious and focused. Daughter of art, her mother is the supermodel Christy Turlington and her father Edward Burns is an actor, director, screenwriter and film producer. Grace is just eighteen years old, writes poetry and essays, loves to travel, has a passion for photography and a large circle of friends, who are her muses. She is about to begin her first semester at NYU and on the occasion of the September Issue she shared us a preview of her future plans.
GO Hi Grace, where do you find yourself right now? Who are you spending the end of summer with?
GB Summer’s just ended for me, though I’m ready for fall. I’m beginning my first semester at NYU and classes start this week! I’ve spent the end of summer with family mostly; we’ve enjoyed playing into the whole college move, though I’m not even leaving the state. I guess my summer will end with meeting lots of new people, pretty much everyone I know has left New York for college, but I’m excited to rediscover the city with new friends.
GO I’m so intrigued by your passion for photography, I really love your documentary-style approach. How did that come about?
GB My interest in fashion actually emerged out of my initial fascination with photography. I remember The Big Picture by Arthur Elgort arriving at my house; I must have been 11 at the time. I was allowed to open the packages but not touch the contents inside… I didn’t listen. Through that book I became obsessed with Arthur and his work, the intimacy of his photographs, the color that shines through black and white images, pictures of Paris, jazz, and rock stars. It was a gateway to the world of fashion photography, blowing the door completely off the hinges. His snapshot images held stories inside of them; regardless of the personality, there was always a connection between the photographer and the subject, one that was revealed to you but never explained. My images are always about intimacy; I started taking pictures of my friends, which inherently reflected love and affinity. Last year I fixed an old Rolleiflex from 1929 and discovered Vivian Maier; I owe a lot to that camera. The practice of shooting is delicate and precise, you have to be exact and patient while using it. I’m still learning, but I’ve genuinely fallen in love with shooting and rarely leave home without a camera.
GO Talking about traveling, through your social media I have followed your latest trip to West Africa and the interesting causes you are supporting. Please tell us more!
GB YES, I would love to! I was lucky enough to travel to three countries in Africa this year. In February, I visited Kenya and Tanzania with Every Mother Counts, a non-profit working to make pregnancy and childbirth safe, respectful and equitable for all, with my mom, who founded the organization. Then, Meadow Walker, my friend, and chosen big sister invited me to join her on an incredible trip to Ghana with Pencils of Promise, a non-profit organization that works to build and improve learning environments. Meadow became involved with the organization in 2019 when campaigning to rebuild the Jasikan College of Education Demonstration Primary School in Ho, Ghana, and now is the newest global ambassador!
Read the full interview on Muse September Issue 60.
“My Images are always about intimacy: I started taking pictures of my friends, which inherently reflected love and affinity.”