Interview

Chris Hunt fashion photographer interview

71 Magazine Interviews Chris Hunt

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. 

INTERVIEW WITH FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER CHRIS HUNT ON LUXURY SNAPSHOT

Luxury Snapshot is a new website featuring stories about professional photographers from all around the world.  Recently they asked me to do a short interview with them where I talked a little about my background in fashion photography.  You can check out the interview and profile here and below is the text of the interview.

Q&A

Did you go to school or teach yourself? I taught myself.  Since I was a kid I played around with photography, and I always had an interest in documentary photography or photo journalism.  I even shot for my local newspaper and my college newspaper.  But it wasn’t until I was winding down my job as a model agent that I really started teaching myself about lighting and the technical aspects of photography.  There was no trick to it, I just shot every day and tried out a lot of different equipment and techniques.  I think this is one of the reasons that my style is so varied… I just loved learning and trying things out and that love of experimentation has followed me through my career.

What interested you in photography? At first it was the idea of making a living as a photographer that was the attraction…. the creativity and the lifestyle it allowed.

Why did you choose the fashion industry? My mom was a model so I was around the fashion world as a small child.  After college I got a job in a model agency, and from there being a fashion photographer just started to make sense as a next step.

How would you describe your style? In general I have a California vibe… but I have done a bit of everything, and in many different styles.

What’s the thing you like the most about being a photographer? And the least? Every job is different and challenging in it’s own way, and that keeps things exciting for me.  And now that I am expanding into filmmaking, it’s opened up a whole new world of challenges.  I love my business, its the best job in the world, so i can’t think of anything that I don’t like right now… but maybe if you ask me when I’m trying to shoot a campaign in terrible weather I will have something different to say!

Who was a big influence for your work? I have never actually had a lot of outside influence… There are some photographers or filmmakers that I really admire, but that doesn’t really translate into an influence in my style. I have generally just done what i enjoyed and worked in the parameters of whatever project I was working on at the moment.

Where do you look for new ideas and inspirations? I can be inspired by different locations or fashions or models, but usually I just go out and do it… if it’s on location I will find something interesting in the space, or the light, and use that.  If it’s studio it’s usually about the model or clothes that we are photographing.  I will sometimes come with a very specific game plan in mind, but sometimes I just allow thing to be discovered on the day.

Do you remember an almost impossible shoot to produce? A car campaign in a volcano that was at such high altitude we all were on the verge of passing out at one point or another… that was a challenge!  Another time we were shooting in the freezing rain and the client wanted it to look like a sunny day!  But these challenges really are what makes my job exciting.

What do you like to shoot on your down time? I love to shoot fashion on location, so if I am doing something just for myself that’s what I will most likely be doing.

Favorite equipment? Equipment are just tools to me, so I use what I need to get the job done… even though I am highly technical, I am not much of a geek when it comes to equipment.

Do you prefer to shoot on location or in a studio? Generally location because I love to be outside in the sun, but I am totally comfortable in the studio too…. just depends on my mood I suppose.

What was the best location that you shot at? Tulum, Mexico and Boracay, Philippines.  No coincidence those are beaches 🙂

What did you wish you would have known before you started? I never assisted so in the very beginning I had to learn everything the hard way… I made some mistakes, but I think in the long run that helped my career because those lessons really stuck with me.

What advice would you give to those just starting out? Shoot, shoot and shoot… just constantly shoot.

Where do you see your career headed? I am moving into directing tv commercials now… I love that and hope to do a lot more.