Color and Soul
Artist Profile — Skip Hunt, Part Two
Yesterday, we met Visual Artist Skip Hunt and drank in some of his fantastic photography. As promised, our conversation with Skip continues today with some advice, a favorite piece and a little prose. Enjoy the visit and some of Skip’s soulful “People” photographs.
Here’s Skip’s advice for aspiring photographers:
“First, don’t get too obsessed over camera gear. So many potentially good photographers get so “focused” on the nuts and bolts of the gear and forget completely about aesthetics. I’ve seen absolutely pristine, technically perfect, ultra-fine images of the most boring subjects from well-schooled photographers from schools like Brooks Institute. It’s very easy to get carried away with all the different techniques, megapixels, color noise, large format, etc. to the point that you’re no longer “seeing” the image. I’ll take a shot from a cell phone cam that has soul, over a 4×5 large format, perfectly lit, drum-scanned shot of a Coke can any day.”
“Second, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with emulating other’s work you admire. I think this is the fastest way to learn. Find a style or photographer’s work you admire and study it until you figure out how to do it yourself. Once you master this, move on to the next style or photographer you admire, and figure out how theirs is done. Soon, you will evolve into you own individual style that’s made up of bit and pieces of the work that moved you the most.”
“Third, pay attention to ALL forms of artistic expression. Be it music, film, painting, poetry, performance, etc. You can learn much from watching a well-lit play and paying close attention to how different light sources effect faces. Same with studying the lighting and composition used in film. If you pay attention, you’ll notice that if you were to take any still frame from a well-made film… each frame would make a brilliant still image. Visit art galleries and study how the great master painters represented light and shadow. Listen to music and pay attention to the images that are created in your mind when you listen. Or, study interesting combinations of color within graffiti art. Everywhere you look and listen there is potential for artistic inspiration.”
What other artists does Skip admire?
“Last, and possibly most important… don’t try to please everyone. No matter what you do… no matter how wonderful it is… no matter how magnificent it is… there will be those who honestly just won’t like it. If you’re happy with the outcome, and perhaps a few others, then that’s all that matters. Most likely, if you’re always true to your own “muse” you’ll eventually be recognized for that anyway.”
“It seems to be human nature for groups of people to base a collective opinion on what they’ve seen before. When you produce something that’s outside of the norm, it takes a while for the collective conscious of the audience to process it. At first, work that breaks the mold will most likely be rejected whether it’s good or not.”
“If you’re truly interested in pure artistic and personal expression, no matter what, don’t give up and conform. If you obsess on trying to create images that most of the mob approves of, you’ll most likely be producing work very similar to that the mob has already seen and liked. This mentality perpetuates the status quo and does nothing to promote growth of the artist or the audience.”
I asked Skip if he has a favorite from his vast portfolio of photographs.
“I have many favorites,” said Skip. But perhaps the one that gives me the most pleasure on several levels, is my “Porto Cat Feed” image. I think because it was one of the least expected images. Almost an accident. I’d been sampling splendid 50 year old Port wine along the river right in Porto, Portugal where the name comes from. It had been a glorious day, but I hadn’t really made many images. The sun was beginning to set and most of the buildings were blocking what direct light was left.”
“I turned down a narrow passage because I could see that great light at the end of the day spilling in. When I got to the end of the passage I was momentarily blinded by the sun poking through a clearing in the buildings. Decided to take a break and just enjoy the last rays of sunshine for the day. Then, I heard this strange sound. I looked toward the sound and it was coming from something landing on a tin roof, and a bunch of cats scrambling about. I looked up to see where the debris was falling from and noticed this little old woman tossing down food for the cats.”
“A giant gull watched on a perch nearby and fluttered its wings as it spied on all the cats. For a moment I was stunned by the beautiful scene and almost didn’t even think to make an image. I grabbed my camera and framed the scene quickly as I could see the woman was about finished with the feed. I snapped one shot instinctively without even checking my exposure.”
“After I’d checked my settings… the woman had finished and ducked back inside. The sun had dropped and the light was gone. I got one shot and the exposure was luckily perfect. I guess that’s why I love it so much. Not only the grand memory of that day, but that I had little to do with it and lady luck was once again…graciously feeding me another visual delight.”
Lastly, I asked Skip if he has a philosophy about color in his work. “Not really,” Skip said. “But perhaps a bit of prose I wrote regarding my relationship with color might express this best:”
Studied in logic and form I bear down to trudge the day’s first steps…
I calculate each stride with purpose and intent…
…never lifting my eyes to witness beyond my lonely sphere.
A swallow calls in lavender and I pause. How can that be?
I lift my steel vision to inspect the preposterous oddity and am
A cornucopia of something called color sends me whirling and tumbling
into a new candied world vibrating with organic visual symphonic bliss.
Finally, I am awake!
Skip is about to hop on a motorcycle to ride through Mexico, capturing more photographic gems. Follow along at the special blog Skip created for this and future trips: http://skiphuntvagabond.tumblr.com/