A conversation with Hunter Thomson
by Taylor Seamans 3 months ago

Q: Give a little background about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get into photography? Is this a hobby or a career for you?

Hunter: I currently live on the Central Coast of NSW about an hour north of Sydney in a little coastal town called North Avoca. I started taking photos on a Go-Pro of some friends bodyboarding at Copacabana. Eventually, I saved up enough to buy a DSLR, and a few months after that whilst tackling three casual jobs as well as school I managed to purchase a water housing and it has all snowballed from there!

Photography definitely started as a hobby and was for a long time without ever getting paid, but for the last 12 months or so I somehow have managed to live off the freelance work I do as well as a casual position helping out with design/media stuff in the TCSS HQ.

Q: Do you shoot primarily film or digital? Is there a context that you’d prefer to shoot in one medium over the other?

Hunter: Most of the time I will shoot digital as that is what is often preferred when shooting for clients that require a quick turnaround of images and a consistent look. There are definitely situations where I would rather shoot film or rather shoot digital though. If I were to shoot a really subjective portrait of someone say, I would much rather shoot on film as I prefer the aesthetic. Although if I were in the water shooting surf, I would probably rather shoot on digital due to the flexibility and ability to view my image there and then and adjust my shot accordingly.

Q: What are your views of analog vs digital photography? By this, I guess are there pros and cons you see in both?

Hunter: I shoot both film and digital formats and have to say I love both equally, each have qualities the other doesn’t and I try to use them accordingly. Digital is great for a quick turn around of images as the is no lengthy processing involved. Also, and probably the major factor, is the reliability of digital is often essential when working on important shoots for clients who have a specific and high expectation. On the other hand, the raw and natural aesthetic of film photography is simply incomparable to digital, there is no way to reproduce that look in digital photography despite how many LR filters you throw over. I simply love the concept of shooting something and not knowing exactly how the image turned out. Then, a few days later when you get the call from the local camera store to say your film is ready. I feel like a little kid on his birthday all excited!

Q: You shoot a lot of surf photography, but also have some music stuff. What draws you most to these two subject matters?

Hunter: Growing up near the beach, I guess I was naturally attracted towards that ‘coastal surf lifestyle’ and as a result started shooting surf and the culture around it. I love being outside and more than anything in the ocean, so taking photos in that environment is just the cherry on top. 

As I got older and eventually started going to concerts and festivals seeing my favorite bands play, I was in awe of the electric atmosphere of live music. I thought if I could only capture this energy in a photograph and save it to look back on for years to come, that’d be pretty sweet. Also I figured if I can take photos of my favorite artists on stage AND get some free entry to a few gigs as a result I’d save myself a few pennies when going out or to a festival.

Q: Your website divides your shots into groups, many of them being a single event (Noosa ’17, Bandwagon on Film, TCSS Campaign) and this format gives your photos a very unified and story-telling quality. Do you feel your photos have a greater meaning when they’re viewed together? I guess, how does viewing the photos chronologically allow growth in the story they’re telling vs just seeing a single shot on Instagram or something?

Hunter: Yeah definitely, I really enjoy presenting my images as a little collection as it often tends to help tell the overall story. If someone where to look at my site knowing nothing about the shoot, subject, situation or anything by the end of the collection I hope, they should be able to have a good idea of what was happening, what we got up to and the story that shoot is meant to tell.

Q: Your photos maintain a strong artistic quality to them. By this, your surfing shots and music shots aren’t just like “action shots” but have a more thought out composition and style to them. Can you talk a little bit about what your creative process is, what you think about when setting up a shot? 

Hunter: When I go take surf photos or music photos, I’m often not the only one at the beach or in the pit at a concert. There are so many photographers these days all shooting pretty similar content, so I try really take into consideration my composition when shooting and come up with a different approach or a different angle to maybe separate myself from the norm. Now, I don’t know if that’s working well or not but I guess we will see.

Q: Is your approach to photography different depending on if you’re shooting a personal project vs a campaign? If so, how?

Hunter: The creative freedom would be the key difference between shooting personal projects vs a campaign. Typically, campaigns are pre-arranged and often have an agreed upon end goal for what the shots to look like, whereas personal project can be spontaneous or take weeks of planning and I can just go with the wind and be as crazy as I like. I still definitely try to put 100% effort into both personal and work of a client, and enjoy both equally as much, it’s just a different approach I guess.

Q: How have you grown as a photographer since you started?

Hunter: I have grown in just about every way possible since starting to take photos, and I still have so much more to learn and room to grow. General knowledge and new techniques has helped a lot overall, but experience has been my biggest virtue. The amount of times I have stuffed up or deleted files in the past or shot plain boring photos are endless, but I’ve learnt from these mistakes and hopefully that’s one thing I don’t do wrong next time.

Q: How has photography helped you grow as a person?

Hunter: Through photography I have met some of the most amazing people I would have never had the chance to meet without it, and I have learnt countless life lessons as a result. I threw myself in the deep end when dropping out of school mid-way through year 11 to follow my passion and pursue photography. Instantly, I was forced to mature and learnt all about the crazy world of being an “adult”. Since then, photography has taken me across Australia and overseas on opportunities I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams, and I haven’t looked back.

Q: Do you have specific photographers that inspire you?

Hunter: There are a number of photographers that inspire me, but someone I have always looked up to with the surf side of things is Woody Gooch, he seems to have such a unique style and approach. Also, Sebastian Zanella, I love his work.

Q: What do you want your legacy as a photographer to be?

Hunter: Ooo that’s a big question…I think as corny as it sounds I would hope to one day be in a position to be able to raise awareness to certain topics and ask questions that aren’t typically being asked through photography. Capture subjects you don’t typically see in front of a camera show the world a different side of things. Now that’s a long shot I know, but a legacy is definitely no short term goal.

Taylor Seamans
by Taylor Seamans
Taylor is the Editor-in-Chief of inbtwn.

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