Recently I had the opportunity to be featured in 71 Magazine. Following is the story they did about me, and some of the images they chose to feature in the magazine.
Though 71 often relays the perspectives of actors, musicians and artists for the Light + Sound issue we felt it important to hear from the other side of the camera. We had the change to speak with renowned photographer and filmmaker, Chris Hunt, and to share his work in the largest photo spread we’ve done to date.
In a sense, there are two Chris Hunts. With depth of vision, soulful connection and intuitive natural light choices, Hunt brings art to editorial, capturing truth and complex emotion in the balance of visual elements. His own personal art series pair moody, intriguing images that tell unique, intimate, mysterious, dreamlike stories unlike any others.
As an international fashion/editorial photographer and director, Hunt divides his time between New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City, where he’s shot for Nylon, L’Officiel, Vogue, Maxim, Grazia, Givenchy, BCBG Max Azria, Forever 21, Heritage, Urban Planet and Avon. He has also shot a number of high-profile creatives, including Emily Ratajkowski, Nargis Fakhri and Talulah Riley.
Originally from California, Hunt has spent the last 15 years working all around the world. Though Hunt began his career as a model agent and then as a photojournalist in LA. he expanded into full-time fashion and editorial work across the globe. He has since expanded into film, directing TV commercials for fashion and lifestyle brands. He believes the future is film.
71 Magazine: Your mom was a model in the ‘60s, and then you went on to become a model agent. Did that background help as a start to shoot fashion and editorial?
Chris Hunt: Even though I grew up in sort of a hippy enclave in Marin County, Calif., my mom was always quite into fashion. We had all the latest fashion magazines, and at a really early age, I remember being fascinated by the imagery captured by the photographers. And hearing stories of my mom’s shoots with photographers such as Peter Beard only reinforced this fascination with the people behind the lens.
But like any normal kid, I still wanted to be a fireman or join the Army, and it wasn’t until much later in life that I actually picked up a camera. After college, I took an internship at a model agency, and it was only then that I started shooting with models.
71: Did you formally study photography, or are you self-taught?
Hunt: During college, I worked for my school newspaper and took a couple photography art classes, but that was the end of my formal photography education. I really just taught myself by shooting and shooting some more … sometimes with models, sometimes landscapes, sometimes still life. Anything I found in any way interesting would end up in front of my camera. Honestly, that is the best education – just trying things out and seeing what works and what doesn’t.
71: What were your original influences in photography and art?
Hunt: Early on, it was just about any photographic imagery that I found interesting. I didn’t even pay attention to who shot what. The beauty of the imagery was what was important. Later, I started to learn about the photographers that were producing the work that I really loved. In the fashion world, that was people like Guy Bourdin, Steven Meisel, Peter Lindbergh, Richard Avedon and Davide Sorrenti and Mario Sorrenti.
71: Would you say you have a philosophy of art, and especially photographic arts?
Hunt: Well, in the beginning, I am sure I was more idealistic about photographic art and fashion … but after some years of actually working in the industry, my view became much more practical. That happens when the reality of actually trying to make a living as an artist comes crashing down. Instead of being a prima don-na and forcing my vision on others, I learned to work with clients to successfully realize their vision.
Of course, I always try to give a piece of myself to even the most commercial work, but I found that the only time I had complete artistic freedom was when I would shoot things only for myself … no client and not even a thought to who the audience would be. In fact, the best photos I have ever shot have never seen the light of day. I have just kept them for myself.
71: You had some notable experiences as a photojournalist. Why did you leave photojournalism, and what did you learn and take to editorial, commercial and art photography?
Hunt: I loved the idea of being a photojournalist. I was attract-ed to the swashbuckling, globetrotting fantasy of what a photo-journalist’s life would be … but the reality was a little different. I started shooting as a stringer for my local newspaper, and taking photos of car accidents or town hall meetings just wasn’t what I wanted to do. And though I did do a lot of traveling, it was all on my own dime, and seeing a long-term future became harder and harder. Plus, I was just better at fashion photography.
But what I learned in the very short time I was trying to be a photojournalist translated well to fashion. It was very immediate. You have one chance to get the shot. You have to move quickly and think on your feet. With fashion, you spend time to plan, but on the day of the shoot, you have to make it work. Maybe it would rain and you planned for sun; maybe the model shows up looking completely differently from what you expected; maybe the ward-robe stylist cancelled at the last minute. None of that stuff matters. It was all up to me to make sure the shoot was successful no matter what obstacles are thrown in your way. It’s stressful, but exhilarating.
71: How did you break into fashion and film?
Hunt: I spent a few years trying to find my “voice.” That was probably the hardest part for me. I was always a bit torn. I gravitated toward art and high-fashion photography and spent a year putting together a portfolio of this style of work. This was back in the day of film; I started before digital was even on the horizon, so everything was a lot slower. Spending hours waiting for the film to come out of the lab before even knowing if you got the shots. Then hours in the darkroom printing.
Anyway, after showing my work around, I realized that the clients who actually could hire me were on the more commercial side of the fashion world. So then I put together a portfolio of softer and prettier style of fashion and realized I loved that just as much. That resulted in my first paid job. It was a rather big shoot for Ba-nana Republic. I was so nervous before that shoot; I don’t think I slept a wink the night before!
That was followed-up by a few more shoots for Banana Republic and GAP and some other clients in the more commercial side of fashion. But still I revolted against that and continued to push my darker and more artistic fashion aesthetic. But it was a hard road. The scope of clients that are even interested in that style is much smaller, and the pool of photographers pursuing that style is much bigger.
I spent four years with this internal tug-of-war over style, not re-ally making any traction in the industry. I was living in New York, struggling to get those high-fashion clients to notice me, while at the same time, I would get flown to sunny Los Angeles to do some jobs on the more commercial side of the business with cli-ents like BCBG.
It’s hard not to fall in love with the weather in Los Angeles when you are trudging through the snow in New York City … and I found myself spending more and more time out there. I finally realized that the more commercial side of fashion was more natural for me and allowed me to live the life that was closer to who I really am: a California boy. Plus, it generally allowed me to work in a much more relaxed and happy environment with like-minded people. And best of all, it paid better!
When I put 100 percent of my focus into this, my career really took off. The first client that really believed in me and supported me was Forever 21, and they kept me busy for years. They also gave me my first taste of shooting fashion videos. Through my collaboration with them, I won over many other similar clients and my career just built from there.
71: What advice would you offer to photographers aspiring to work in art and editorial?
Hunt: Well, first, don’t make the same mistake I did: Figure out your style and your specific voice before anything else. Once you know exactly what you want to do, you just have to shoot and shoot and shoot. Build your team – the people you love to work with who share your vision.
Give yourself room to experiment and evolve, but always stay true to your vision. There are just so many photographers these days with a wide range of styles that confuses clients. Just master one specific style. Oh, and don’t waste money on photography school. Everything you need to know, you can learn in the real world.
71: What is your current gear?
Hunt: It’s a huge mix, and it really de-pends on the job. The equipment are just tools, and each job may require a differ-ent tool. For a lot of my photography, I will use Canon equipment, but if I require a re-ally detailed file that may be getting a lot of post work, I may end up using a Phase One back on a Hasselblad camera.
For video, I often use Sony mirror-less cameras like the A7Sii, or A6500 if the final product is only going to be shown on-line. Sometimes I will use the Canon C200 in raw format if I plan to do a lot of color work on the final video. And for TV commercials, I generally use an RED camera package.
71: What are your future goals in photography and film?
Hunt: I am doing less and less photography these days and a lot more film. That’s where I see things going for me in the future. Even the jobs that we had normally shot as photos only are now all being shown as animations on social media or online. Last month, almost everything I shot was video on green screen; I do all sorts of special effects on this, and then it is used across clients’ full spectrums of online outlets.
I think that is the future of photography: In five years, no one will shoot photos anymore. This year, I have set a goal to get into more narrative-type film projects, as well, whether it’s commercials or fashion films or shorts. I just want to focus more on telling stories with actors.