Damon Hunter is a fine art and street photographer based in Melbourne, Australia. We first came across his fantastic series ‘The Colour of Glass’- photography of buildings with extensive use of glass in a very interesting and colorful way with focus on shapes, lines, angles and symmetry. These cool images took us to his website where we found more of his work comprising his street photography and his current project ‘Living Rough’ dealing with homeless people living and making their livelihood on streets. Damon began documenting their life by interacting with them and listening to their stories and everyday challenges that are detailed in the Facebook page of this project. Some of these are talented artists and artisan who cherish many dreams and aspirations. This feature consists of Damon’s brilliant images from his glass series following his street project with some inputs and insights on his work:
I was born and live in Melbourne, Australia. I don’t currently work full-time as a photographer but that’s what I’m aiming towards. I don’t really have any hobbies, as my main interest is my photography and that doesn’t leave much time for anything else. I hit the gym and run four or five days a week but I’m not sure that counts as a hobby 😀
When did you start photography and how often do you shoot?
I’ve always enjoyed taking photos but only started getting serious about it in May 2011, and its gotten to the point now where I’ve gone part-time at my day job in order to give me more time to pursue my photography. As for how many photos I would take in a month, hundreds. Taking photos takes up most of my time outside of my day job.
I don’t think photography has affected my personality greatly, however working with models has increased my confidence in giving directions to people. As for why I take pictures, the answer to that differs depending on what I’m shooting; if I’m shooting street photography I like that it’s just me and my camera, I’m completely zoned in to what’s going on around me, my eyes are really open to what’s happening and I find it cathartic. If I’m shooting headshots I enjoy the human interaction, the giving of direction and working with the client to get the best out of them, not to mention the challenge of working with lighting setups. Then again, if I’m shooting a model there’s always a lot of laughter (I keep my shoots very relaxed) and I enjoy working with natural light also, as it forces me to be creative in how I use it. If I’m shooting for my ‘Colour of Glass’ series I enjoy the process of trying to find the perfect angle in order to achieve perfect symmetry. If I’m shooting for my ‘Living Rough’ project I like the challenge of trying to get an image that really tells a story about the person I’m shooting, and of course speaking to them afterwards and finding out what their story is. And finally, if I’m photographing pets it’s always fun because… I’m photographing pets 🙂
I used to use a Nikon D7000 with the Nikon 18-300 3.5-5.6 but when the Olympus OMD EM1 came out last year I sold all my Nikon gear and switched to the EM1. I find the EM1 is fantastic for street photography as it’s small, light and unobtrusive, and the image stabilization is so good that it allows me to shoot handheld in low light without using an ISO so high that it would make the image all but unusable. The image quality of the EM1 is so good that I can use it for everything I do. My go-to lens at the moment is the Olympus 12-40 2.8 PRO but I’ve also got the Panasonic 14-140 3.5-5.6, which I only use to shoot The Colour of Glass, as it’s a bit on the soft side and will probably be replaced by the Olympus 40-150 2.8 PRO. I’m also looking at getting the Leica-Panasonic Noctitron 42.5 1.2 solely for portrait work but we’ll see.
To carry everything I use the ThinkTank Retrospective 5 as it fits everything perfectly, is inconspicuous and very well made. Great for street photography or travel- in fact I just got back from three weeks traveling in Vietnam and it came with me everywhere I went. When it rained- and by rain I mean torrential downpour- I just threw on the included rain cover and it was all good.
Finally, I have a Tap n’ Dye wrist strap, which I love; it’s beautifully made, has an understated, retro look, and does exactly what it’s supposed to do - keep my camera attached to me, without getting in the way,
About my workflow, I open RAW file in Olympus Viewer, export as TIFF, open in Photoshop for basic touch-ups (blemish/spot removal etc), open in Lightroom for processing and then maybe back into Photoshop for final touch-ups.
Most young photographers spend less time shooting and more on editing and manipulating images. What do you think about it?
I don’t really have any views on editing except that I prefer to get it right in camera so that I don’t have to edit heavily later, but that goes without saying. As for photo manipulation, you do what you have to do in order to achieve the look you want but if you messed it up during the shoot no amount of manipulation is going to fix it in post. And I don’t like it when images look overly processed anyway, unless it’s a certain look or style that you’re going for. My Colour of Glass stuff is heavily manipulated but that’s because I’m going for a certain look that I wouldn’t be able to achieve in camera.
With routine street photography I don’t go out with a set agenda for what I’m aiming to shoot, although I might have a few ideas as far as basic concepts go, or themes I’d like to explore, or a type of image I would like to capture. But with ‘Living Rough’ I’m looking for a specific thing, namely a person who is living on the streets but in a location or position that will allow me to take the photograph in a way that is different from your standard portrait shot, whilst also allowing me to tell a story with the image.
The project started with the shot I call my favorite image (see below). I looked at the man in that image and he looked so interesting, I really wanted to know what his story was, and people I showed the picture to said the same thing. So I figured that maybe a lot more people might want to know and if his story, why not also the stories of other people who are homeless and living on the street? Ultimately this project became a way for me to show society that there is more to these people than what we see as we walk past and do or do not give them money. They have stories, skills, talents and dreams. I ended up naming that first image ‘All you see but not all I am’ and that pretty much sums up what the project represents and is about.
That’s the photo that gave me the idea to create the ‘Living Rough’ project. I was walking around the city during a street photography shoot, when I came across a man who was homeless, sitting in an alleyway, smoking. It was a hot night and he was shirtless, his hair was long and although he looked scruffy, he had strong features and piercing eyes. I took a number of shots of him (he didn’t know I was shooting, which is usually the way I work, I’m very discreet) and this particular image just jumped out at me when I got it into the digital darkroom. I think there’s a lot of emotion in it and it says something. In short, I think it’s a powerful shot. I later wished I’d asked that man what his story was, and that was when I decided to create ‘Living Rough’, so that from then on I would know the story behind the person.
Originality in photography; that issue really only comes up for me when I look at street photography. I’m just so tired of seeing images of people pushing trolleys, crossing roads, leaning against walls or whatever it might be, in ways that are completely uninteresting. One person leaning against a wall looks much the same as another person leaning against a wall so if you’re going to photograph a person leaning against a walk, make sure there’s something particularly interesting about that person and/or shoot them from a different perspective, something that shows some thoughtfulness and creativity instead of just saying, “Oh wow, look, a person leaning against a wall!” Click! That’s boring, lazy photography and the Internet is rife with it.
My biggest achievements thus far have been having articles written about my work in Feature Shoot, Popular Photography, and now PhotoArtMag. Only three years ago I would never have thought I was ever going to be interviewed by anyone, ever - I’d only just gone out and bought my first DSLR and really didn’t know what I was doing! So I’m pretty thrilled about that.
I don’t have any clients yet but given that up until this point I’ve really just been doing my own thing, that’s ok. I’ve been using this time to try shooting different styles of photography, from events to pets, headshots, fashion and real estate, to try to get a feel for which ones I gel with and enjoy the most. I think I’ve pretty much figured that out now and am in the process of starting up Dr Dolittle Pet Photography (it’s on Facebook) and am shortly going to be setting up a headshot business for actors, models, corporate etc. Pet photography because I care a great deal about animal welfare and plan to give a percentage of money made from every shoot to animal charities. Headshots because I used to do a lot of acting work (and plan to do so again) and so, having had a lot of headshots taken of me as an actor, and also in casting for films I’ve produced, I know what works and what’s going to stand out in front of agents and casting directors. My personal projects will work in alongside these but if I ever want to go pro I need to have a constant income stream, which is difficult to obtain from fine art alone.
My ambition is to go pro and for motivation I just look at my life as it currently is - doing a standard 9-5 job - and ask myself if that’s what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. The answer is a resounding no!
I don’t think I’ve got many fans (although that would be nice!) but for aspiring photographers, I probably can’t give you any advice that you haven’t already heard from every other photographer; in short, you need to get out there and shoot. If you don’t have time to shoot every day, that’s ok, get out there on weekends. Try everything, see what you enjoy shooting and then start focusing more on that. Don’t get hung up on gear - easier said than done, I know! Learn how to use post processing software, whether it be Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One or whatever - a great image should be shot in camera but most images will still need some processing to finish them off. Finally, don’t be disheartened if you go out shooting for a day and come home with nothing you’re happy with. It happens. Go out the next day or the following weekend and do it again. Enjoy the process, not just the outcome.