Tom Hunter Study Visit

Posted on March 3, 2013


About 25 students from the OCA had the opportunity yesterday to listen to Tom Hunter speak about his work and to ask him questions. The event was organised by OCA tutor Sharon Boothroyd. I was one of the lucky few to go along.

Tom gave a fairly long presentation about his work. He started with his photographs of customers coming to his market stall in Brick Lane, and went right up to his latest commission in Birmingham. His talk was engaging and fun.

I have posted a review of Tom’s work previously here, so this post will concentrate on new things which I have learned. Tom has also very kindly given me permission to use his photographs on my blog.

It was great to hear Tom  talk about his work. He is clearly passionate about what he does. His subject matter has been largely centred on Hackney where he has lived for many years and he feels that what he is trying to do is ‘represent ordinary people and elevating their status’. He went into some detail about certain photographs. For example in his discussion of the ‘Art of Squatting’ he explained how he wanted to show how the squatters had made their places beautiful in their own way.  He talked about the deliberate way he had framed the shot  to show the heart shaped area of plaster clearly as he felt that it showed the attention the squatters gave to their home.

Persons Unknown SeriesThe Art of Squatting

Persons Unknown Series
The Art of Squatting by Tom Hunter  ©Tom Hunter

He was asked how he got people to sit for him and he explained that he used every trick in the book. Mostly though it seems that he is very good at getting on with people and does not easily take no for an answer. When rebuffed initially he tries to explain to people what he is aiming to do and quite often manages to turn the situation around.

I asked him if he felt compromised by the fact that he was now making work which would be shown in galleries. He said that he had had people who felt that he should only show his work to a close group (within the squatting  community) in Hackney. He feels that to get his message out he needs to access the widest possible audience and feels that now he has a platform to express his views.

He was also asked if he felt that idealising his subjects diverted attention away from the underlying issues of poverty, violence and exploitation. His view was very firmly that he did not think that this is the case. He wants his photographs to be compelling and to draw people in. This way they will also start to consider the underlying content and the issues it depicts.

He is in the process of putting together a new exhibition and it was slightly reassuring to hear that he is very worried about how it will be received. So even the best have moments of uncertainty!

I spoke to him afterwards about some technical matters. I was interested to find out whether he used artificial lighting in his work. In most cases he doesn’t, and spends a lot of time reconnoitering locations to decide on the best conditions and time to make a shot. He uses Fuji Provia positive film which has a speed of just 100ISO, so when making portraits indoors in natural light he sometimes has to use shutter speeds of as long as 1 second (for seated subjects). He still loves the transparencies which this films give.

It was a great event and hopefully the OCA will be able to organise some other artist/photographer talks.

Tom Hunter - OCA Study Visit 3rd March 2013 - iPhone photograph by Keith Greenough

Tom Hunter – OCA Study Visit 3rd March 2013 – iPhone photograph by Keith Greenough