A WittyBizGal Authentic Winner E-terview; Photographer Phil Hunt

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Phil Hunt has been helping to make the world a more beautiful place by capturing artistic and impactful images for the past few decades now. I had the opportunity to collaborate closely with him on our family genealogy website, On the Rhodes, a couple of years ago and I found him to be not only exceptionally skilled in working with images and web design, but also very meticulous and fully committed to presenting only the highest quality imagery for our site. So, for this 4th in my series of Authentic Winner E-terviews, I looked no further than my own backyard gene pool. Because Phil Hunt is not only one of the best professional photographers in the business, he’s also my cousin, I’m proud to say!

WBG:  Phil, you’ve been taking pictures for a good portion of your adult life, and have been a professional photographer most of that time. When and how did you first discover your interest in photography, and what made you decide to make a career out of it?

PLH:  I think it started when I was around 8 or 9 years old. My mother used to bring home Life and Look magazine. I was always so amazed by the incredible pictures of all the beautiful people inside. I loved the back cover most of all though…The Breck Girl stole my heart in 1955.

Twelve years later, I got drafted and spent a year in Hanau, Germany before I went to Vietnam. Marvin, a friend of mine, used to walk around town and take pictures of things he found interesting just for fun. I asked him one day why he did it. “Well”, he said, “I do it because I like it and someday, I might take a picture that will make me rich”. “How so?” I asked. “The Hindenburg”, he said. “The guy that took the picture of the Hindenburg exploding was paid $10,000 for that one picture!” I bought my first camera on payday later that month and have been taking pictures ever since.

Emporium Capwell Cover 1985

WBG:  Your work is beautiful, and you seem to capture images in moments that the rest of us might allow to pass by unnoticed. What exactly is it that you see that makes your finger snap the photo at just that moment? In other words, in general, what makes a great shot?

PLH: Thank you!  It’s hard to say what makes a great shot. Much of my work has been still life product shots specifically designed for advertising or catalogue purposes. Those types of shots are meticulously set up and meticulously styled by a talented stylist and art director. Most of the work involved is in setting a mood to make them look good to a specific type of consumer. That is done by creative use of lighting and styling, building sets or searching for locations. It’s a compromise between making a nice photo and still showing enough of the product so that potential buyers will know what they are buying–truth in advertising and all that you know. So, to answer your question, with this type of shot you just fiddle with it until it looks right and then shoot two or three frames and it’s done.

Macys Christmas Catalogue Cover 1973

When there are models involved it’s a little different. When they arrive at the studio you start to build a rapport with them so they get to know you, and you them a little. You explain to them what they are going to be shooting and what is expected of them. When the model(s) are out of makeup and properly styled and dressed I escort them to the set and tell them how I like to shoot. I explain that I will take a shot about every two seconds and they are to have a pose or “look” ready for me when the lights flash. It helps to set a rhythm… kind of like dancing.

Christy Turlington for SF Chronicle – Full page Newspaper Ad 1985

I guess great shot is one that fulfills its intended purpose. If you like it and it makes you happy then it’s a great shot. Usually, you know it when you see it go by in the viewfinder. How’s that for skirting the issue?

Rene Russo Outtake From a Macys Jewelry Catalogue 1973

WBG:  During the 70’s & 80’s you worked in the beautiful city of San Francisco, first for Macy’s, and then independently from your own studio. During that time in your professional career, you had the opportunity to photograph several celebrities—some were famous at the time, and some became well known later. Who was your favorite celebrity subject, and why?

PLH:  Without a doubt it had to be Rene Russo. She flew in to San Francisco from New York on the red eye flight and walked into the studio half asleep with her hair looking a little disheveled. Well actually, it was a lot disheveled.  She went straight to the back of the studio where all the mattresses were kept, threw one down on the floor and laid down for a nap.  “Wake me up in an hour”, she said.  When she woke up we had a couple of jewelry shots to shoot which we finished in about an hour and then we went to lunch.  I think what I like most about Rene is that she’s a regular person. That and the fact that she has the most incredible drop dead gorgeous face I have EVER seen.  She wasn’t the least bit pretentious like many of the other models of that era.

Restore and Colorize WWII Fighter Pilot Crew About 1945

Restored for Family 2009

John Slighton (on left) was Awarded the Navy Cross

WBG:  Tell us about your work with photographic restoration. What sparked your interest in preservation of the past, and why do you feel it is important to restore images of days gone by?

PLH:  I am a Baby Boomer. My Dad and Uncles were in WWII and also lived through the Great Depression of the 30’s. My mom took tons of pictures to send to my dad before they were married and Dad sent pictures back to mom when he could. I guess it was a very popular thing to do in those days because I have hundreds if not thousands of old photographs. I grew up looking at those photos over and over until I couldn’t look at them anymore.  Eventually my mom boxed them up with the intent of organizing them and having some of them copied so they would be around for future generations. By then, I was off on my own and had forgotten all about them.  I forget exactly when it was but I think it was the early 80’s when mom sent me a shoe box full of them and asked if i would make copies for her.  I said yes and promptly stuck them on a shelf and forgot about them again.

William Rhodes Date Unknown

Restored 2007

I moved to a new house in the late 90’s.  Lo and behold there were those old pictures again. I just could not escape!  By this time, I had a computer and was learning to use Photoshop.  So, it was a natural…a box of old photos, a computer and Photoshop.  I was in my 50’s by then and I looked at the photos with new perspective this time.  The people in those pictures were my family and all I had left of them was right there in that box.  There will not be enough time for me to restore them all but now and then I pick one out and start working on it. When you work in Photoshop, for those who aren’t familiar with it, you need to work at sizes that make them appear life size on the screen.  It can be a rather eerie feeling.  It may sound strange but I swear that sometimes late at night looking at those familiar faces, I see a little twinkle in an eye and a hint of a smile. It’s probably just eye strain. It’s just something I have to do… The labor of love if you will.

Model Headshot 2007

WBG:  I think my readers will be interested to learn that you are still very much a working photographer. What sort of projects are you involved with now, and what image services do you offer to models, organizations, and individuals?

PLH:  At the present time I’m working with local models {Grand Rapids, Michigan Area} shooting head shots to help them update their portfolios. I am also planning a major change in the direction and scope of my work to something totally different than what I’ve been doing all these years.  Exactly what that will evolve into I don’t know for sure but I do know that an occasional re-invention of one’s self is a good thing.

Model Headshot 2011

WBG: I agree! You know, as Baby Boomers collectively approach and pass retirement age, I’m sure there are many out there who have lived their lives, raised their children, enjoyed a rewarding career, etc., but are wondering what is next for them in this new and exciting chapter of their lives. It does seem that gone are the days when a retiree simply accepted their gold watch and went home to just relax. Characteristically, your generation is currently re-defining social and cultural norms, with a majority desiring to remain vital and actively make new and innovative contributions to society. Since you are in the midst of this yourself, what three pieces of advice do you have for other Baby Boomers looking to re-invent themselves?

PLH:

1.  It’s easy to lose track of your dreams. Try to find them again and if they are still important to you now is the time to start living them.

2.  Remember what we learned from our parents. They fought the Great War and made tremendous sacrifices for us and generations yet to come. Don’t let their efforts be forgotten. Share their stories with your kids and grandchildren.

3.  This could be the time when your life is just beginning.  Make the most of it.

“Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along. Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder where those years have gone”. ~ I Hope You Dance Songwriters: Mark D. Sanders, Tia Sillers / Performed by: Lee Ann Womack

For Bookings or to Browse More of Phil’s Work, Please Visit His Professional Website At: http://www.plhphotography.com/

To Follow Phil on Twitter: @PLHPhoto

Model Headshot 2007

2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Remembering With Recipes « wittybizgal

  2. Pingback: 5 #Winners & 5 Truths About #Winning « wittybizgal

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