Rob Hunter is an emerging photographer established in South Africa. He started taking photographs by chance thanks to the persistence of a friend till he couldn’t escape photography. His work is captivating and disturbing, his vision is mainly compromised of common places with some element that makes you think and imagine things that are about to happen or happened already. On his captivating portraits, he looks for complicity with the people, showing us persons of all ages and social levels, a fistful of fresh and natural moments.
Seeking Magazine: Tell us something about yourself? Where are you?
Rob Hunter: I’m at the southern tip of Africa at my home pc thinking up some answers to some questions regarding the pictures i take. I’m trying not to be boring. I’m also drinking rooibos tea in a fifty year old cup with two sugars and no milk. I’m also thinking about dodging these questions and watching some internet porn. But i’m a sad soul and porn has nothing on photography.
SM: How did you get started with photography?
RH: A lady friend of mine in college was taking photography while i was there, she had insane passion and as we all know, passion is infectious, so in effect i guess she drove me insane, insane with passion or whatever. That was me with a 35mm pentax shooting colour film, i’ve never shot black and white, i took portraits of her, i wasn’t really there though, i’ve never really been there, there’s always been something between me and reality, holding a cameras a physical manifestation of that. I’ve tried to break that wall by taking portraits of random strangers and it’s helped me i think. I don’t know if that was the right decision. This all probably sounds like the biggest cliché, and it probably is, but i’m still going through all this for the first time so it’s no cliché for me.
SM: What is photography for you?
RH: I have no idea. For me personally photography is everything, and nothing, but it doesn’t control me in any way, i could stop tomorrow and feel nothing and move to something else. It’s just that photography works for me, in a way i own it, i’d make paintings but i prefer the connection to reality of the film negative, something that is real, it exists, existed. Its connection to the illusion of time that makes it more apparent. But it’s not only that, it’s also something to create, to escape simply being a consumer, it’s part of me giving something back, some returned karma. I’m not really one for interviews like this because effectively i can just write anything i feel like, and i really need structure and limitations, that’s why i like tripods and slow film cameras and one exposure per subject bla bla bla
SM: How would you describe your photographic style?
SM: Wich photographers or artist do you consider have been more influential for you?
RH: I like every picture i’ve ever seen in some way or another but jeff wall is the person responsible for making me obsessed with subtextual meaning and reference and the before and after elements in photographs, i’d seen this in films before, but the way he made photographs speak was unique and new to me at the time.
SM: Tell us about your series ‘strangers.’ What mean these portraits for you?
RH: To a certain extent they’re all self portraits because when you take a picture of a stranger in the street an event happens that is so heavily influenced by the choices of the person making the photograph that these decisions, which effectively arise from what is going on in ones own mind (be they conscious or unconscious), are projected somehow into the reactions of the person being photographed, everything becomes so nuanced and acute during the picture taking process that there is almost a trade of personality that influences the subject and makes them somehow mimic the photographer, because they are looking to you to find in themselves just what it was that you saw in them when they were selected specifically out of a street and universe full of others. If you don’t find something to appreciate in another person, something that every person has, something unique to every person, then they will never appreciate you and they’ll never give you anything in their portrait, although they may not ever even realise it.
From another point of view, of which there are many, i think that i’m trying to connect with my own humanity in every picture, i’m trying to find evidence that people are good, that if you’re willing to take time just to take a picture of them with effort and genuine interest, then they are willing to do the same for you, there’s a mutual interest in the pursuit of a place where people care for each other, so the photographic act becomes a possibility or a metaphor for a random conversation, for a cigarette, for an arm to cross the street, for someone to chase the thief with your purse, for someone to chase after you if you drop your wallet, for hope for a better world. And at the same time it’s all so fucking sad because.
SM: You work with square format pictures, any reason behind that decision?
RH: I like using my rolleiflex with its silence, its topview prism finder, its twin lens, and the way i bow down in from of my subjects before i take a picture, and the square format comes along with that, but there’s the neutral balance of the square as well that i like, and the simplicity of never have to flip a camera sideways for a portrait or landscape, but ultimately it doesn’t matter to me, i just want something as neutral as possible.
SM: Tell us about your series ‘sculptures’.
RH: It’s not really a title yet, and there’s not much to say other than each of them are unique in that there’s no intentional recurring motif, sometimes i notice certain aspects of my own personality might be invading the pictures but i don’t know why i take them, i suppose there is something is inside each of these pictures that i am trying to find, something i know is there but cant see, something that’s in everything i see but cant find, but when i find it i’ll know. But when i find it what then? Sometimes i see loneliness there, sometimes hope, to an extent these are pictures that are about what is missing, about what should be there but isn’t, i’d like to think that they’re about something different for different people, as long as they have some meaning, some emotion, something to feel through.
SM: When you’re not taking pictures what do you enjoy doing?
RH: Swimming underwater is pretty fun. at night. Maybe daydreaming with headphones and some interpol. Books pass the time with good ideas. Anything that keeps my attention away from the void.
Copyright © Rob Hunter, All rights reserved. This photographs are not to be used as free stock.