Exercise – Tom Hunter

Born in 1965 in Dorset Tom Hunter is very much a rags to riches kind of story. His story which is described in the article as from the Ghetto to the National Gallery is one in which is quite inspiring. The article itself is named Think Global, Act Local summarises his mentally towards his local community. Annoyed by the portrayal in the media aims towards areas like Hackney in East London he set out to document and portray to a larger audience the reality of this community. He has worked on many projects within this community which he hoped would create empathy for people living in this area. As he described they are just people like anyone else who not only would also react to the over dramatized publication of horrible acts done by the minority that have to live in it. This section of the article makes that point well.

“Newspaper stories are historical narratives of our time,” says Hunter. “I’d go to friends’ places and they’d say, ‘I can’t read the Hackney Gazette any more, it’s just too scary – I think I’m going to be raped or murdered’. Tom Hunter. 2012

Highly motivated he describes the feeling of how it feels often people go traveling the world in search of stories yet some of the most important ones are just outside your doorstep. One of his most famous and important piece of work is name Living in Hell. Living in Hell was important for many reasons, firstly it was commissioned by The National Gallery which was the first time they had asked a photograph to make a body of work. While acknowledging that his early work was propaganda designed to evoke a reaction against issues Living in Hell does so in a more subtle way. The scenes are clearly stages but done so in a way which is very close to reality. Hunter argues that despite the staged nature of his work all the elements which are in the photograph remain truthful. The location is real, the objects in the photograph are real as are naturally the people in the photograph. Therefore its more of a re-creation of a real life story based out of life. In this way it blurs the lines between what is documentary and fiction.

” He favours photography because it has “its feet in reality”, he says, where painting is always an abstraction. All his work is taken on location, so no matter how staged some of the elements are, they retain an historical veracity. ”

As he has develop as an artist he has also found a fond interest in painting and the history of art making a point to incorporate it into his work.  He believe its important that work is connected in some way to the long history of representation. Our understanding of what is beauty which is installed in us in classroom is reflected in his work by paying homage to works of the past. He uses references such as posturing in the hope that the viewer my get that connection.

‘Oh yes, that’s a beautiful picture’ and makes a connection, he might start to explore and look into art history and realise that my image is connected back to a long history of representation. Or he might not, but either way I think we do understand that relationship to beauty.”

He appears well rounded and in touch with what it means to really represent a community or individual but at the same time pay respect to what has come before. While his early work seems very raw and documentary in approach its interesting to see how he finds his own style and in-corporates other elements into his work so that his style is clearly recognisable. I agree that there are degree of fiction in work and despite the staged nature of his I believe he has in the most part found a good balance. A balance enough in my mind at least that his work can still be classes as documentary and not work of fiction. If you are dealing with issues you cant expect to always be there in the right place at the right time and staging your scene and doing enough research and paying enough respect to the scene its my belief you can still represent an issue in a truthful yet fictional manner.

References taken from

Tom Hunter. Think Global, Act Local. 2012. [Official website online] At http://www.tomhunter.org/think-global-act-local/ (Accessed 14 Jan 2014)

Tom Hunter. Living in Hell. [Official website online] http://www.tomhunter.org/living-in-hell-and-other-stories/nggallery/slideshow (Accessed 14 Jan 2014)


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