Skip Hunt is a visual artist who takes photographs, and ends up producing photographic masterpieces. His work is a generous, private look into the intense world of humanity. Thankfully I got to talk to him. Feast your eyes on this!
Love and Water- Your photos are absolutely breathtaking and clearly from your unique point of view. When did you begin taking photos?
Skip Hunt- I kind of fell into it. My mother bought a 35 mm camera when I was 15, and I put my hands on it and knew I had to have one. I worked the summer to make some money to get one, and have been shooting ever since. I’ve just been compelled to make images. I started emulating other photographers’ work and came to my own style without even trying.
L&W- Your work spans the globe, and you’re clearly moved by other cultures. Can you talk how that has allowed your style to evolve?
SH- I’ve always been fascinated with other cultures. I’ve been trying to live my life like something I would want to see in a movie, trying to absorb as much color and texture and culture and conversation and people as I can. There seems to be something related to when I’m traveling that opens up my mind a bit more and I start noticing the little things that we tend to just walk past most of the time. It seems to be inspirational to be in a state of being a stranger. It doesn’t even have to be another country- I don’t live in New York, so I could go to New York and feel like a stranger and get the same effect. I learned so much about other cultures and people from the traveling I’ve done so far and I have a feeling that if everybody did that or was exposed to it we wouldn’t fight with each other nearly as much as we do now. If people knew that everyone else is basically like them, that they want to have families and a decent life for their children, that everybody wants pretty much the same thing, we would see things in a whole new light. This idea of “the other” is a huge illusion. I know a lot of people can’t travel, or aren’t going to, and I enjoy reporting back through my images how different cultures are so amazingly connected. And it helps me as well relive my experiences. It’s like a huge collection of images from other countries, and it feels like I’m traveling in my own time machine because I remember why I made the image and how I was feeling at that time.
L&W- There are a number of photo illustration pieces on your site- can you talk about how you create those?
SH- One of the first photographer/artists who inspired me in the beginning is a guy named Pete Turner. He did some compositing of various parts of 35 mm images through a process called masking, where he used a slide duplicator and take multiple exposures and mask off different parts of a slide to make compositions in a collage fashion. So when I first started to play around on a computer, that’s what I wanted to do. I took pieces of an image and blended it with another image. I wanted to create something that didn’t exist, that you couldn’t find in nature. I wanted to do compositions that were more of a reflection of what I was thinking, and slightly more complex than what I could capture in a single shot.
L&W- What advice would you give to photographers who are just starting?
SH- I think to first look at a lot of photography. I used to go through all the photography books I could find in book stores and galleries, and I would look at paintings as well. That’s a big one- looking at paintings for composition and lighting. And then decide what it is that you like. Because once you figure out what it is that compels you to make images, then I would learn how to emulate that. For example, if you find you are drawn to portraiture, I would look at as many Renaissance paintings as I could for lighting, composition and inspiration. From there you can figure out the kind of lighting and poses that suit your personal style. It will become your own. Also, I would say to not ever get hung up on too much technology. It seems that over the years the photography marketing industry has tried to convince us that all you need to make great images is the newest and most expensive product on the market. You can make great images with a cell phone camera, if you know what you’re doing. So you don’t want to buy into hype that can bog you down. If you have good content and good composition, it doesn’t matter what kind of gear you’re using.
L&W- There is something in every single one of your photos that is striking to me. As I look at your work I am moved by something in every shot. How do you think you are able to capture such unique and interesting moments?
SH- I think what you’re seeing in those images is what I’m looking for in myself. In the movie “9 1/2 Weeks,” the lead actress is a curator in a museum, and the artist whose work they are going to feature has disappeared. She goes out to find him, and discovers he is in his house in the woods. She goes to the house, and finds him sitting outside studying a fish in a pond. She tells him that there is something about his work that is so moving to her, and she doesn’t know what it is, and asks if he can explain it. And the answer he gives is the closest I’ve ever heard to describing how I feel about my own work. He said that the the secret is that the moment a thing becomes so familiar it’s so strange. If you think about that over and over again, when something becomes so familiar that it’s strange, that to me is when you can create something and just hit the mark.
L&W- What is the most moving moment you’ve had so far with your photography?
SH- I made an image in Morocco after I had my last conversation with my mother from a pay phone. I decided not to go back to the U.S. because I wanted to grieve on my own. I went out to the Sahara at sunrise. There are these amazing, jaw-droppingly huge sand dunes that I went to and waited. I wanted to watch the sun rise. I was climbing to the top and getting short of breath, and it seemed like something was strange as I had paused, like there was no sound. I held my breath to figure out what it was, and I heard this thumping sound, and realized it was my heart beating. There was no wind, no traffic, no people, only the sound of my heart beating. The sun started to rise and there were these golden beams shooting out over the desert, and I looked down and saw a man walking alone and shot that image. That was probably the most moving moment I’ve had related to photography.
L&W- Thank you so much for sharing that.
SH- Sure! It was my pleasure.