Greg Hunt / Interview

You most likely know greg for his work behind a camera, of course, but most likely a moving picture one… from Mind Field to Propeller, including The DC video, his work will have impacted about two generations, if not three. The discreet kind, that most of you might not even know had a pro skater carreer in the mid-nineties (that allowed him to produce a couple parts that have aged more gracefully than a lot of contemporary ones), he has rarely showcased another one of his talents: analog photography. Until today, where he drops a book dedicated to one he has heavy mileage with: Jason Dill! One hell of a subject, for sure, but also a delicate one to capture properly.
But let's clear from the anecdotes and speak our mind with Greg…
 BenjaminDeberdt
 
Propeller days, Paris, 2014. ph: Benjamin Deberdt
 
All other photographs: Greg Hunt
 

What would be your first memory of a camera in your life?

My first memory is my dad taking a group portrait of me with my friends when I was maybe five. He was always shooting photos when I was young, I would visit him in the summer.

 

When did you grab that camera, or another one?

I remember being interested in my dad's darkroom and photo books, but I didn’t get into photography until years later, when Gabe Morford gave me a camera one day, out of the blue. I think I was lucky that he processed my first rolls and gave them back along with contact sheets, because it was seeing those contact sheets that really got me, I was hooked immediately.

 

How old were you back then?

I was 21. I was a sponsored skater. I was poor. I was also pretty fucking lonely at that point so, thank god, I discovered photography, ha!

 

How does one go from having a camera to being a photographer, you think?

That’s a good question. Nowadays, I feel it’s more of a blurred line with phones, people shoot everything. Back in the day, with film photography, I think it had more to do with how excited you might be to see the photos after, or maybe a feeling of how you want the photos to look beyond just documentation. I took a photography class in high school and wasn’t into it at all, it just didn’t click at that point, for whatever reason.

 

I remember seeing photos "shot by Greg Hunt" as early as the mid-nineties in mags, mostly Slap, I believe… Is that something you were not necessarily pursuing as a career, but "serious" about, back then?

Yeah, that’s correct. I was roommates with Gabe and we had a darkroom, and I just really fell in love with photography around then. But it was never a career goal, I’ve always tried to keep photography a personal thing. I shoot when I feel like it, that’s been important over the years.

 

What makes you "feel it", you think? Is that even something you have a clear idea of?

I go through phases. Sometimes, I’m more into cinematography and looking at the world in that way. But, then, I’ll get deep into photography again and I’ll start seeing photos everywhere. I sort of let it take its course, which is nice because when I’m in photo mode it really just comes from me being genuinely in love with photography.

 Greg Hunt

San Francisco, 1997.

We have talked about this before, but I feel like your style of photography has certainly evolved while staying coherent… As in you could easily put next to each other photos you have shot in the mid nineties, to your last mission in a van, and nothing would look out of place. I was wondering if you "found your eye" really quickly? And also what were your early influences?

I never really thought about being a photographer, or what type of pictures I wanted to take, I just really enjoyed shooting. So I’m sure much of it has to do with that. A lot of people I know are always trying the newest cameras and techniques but I’ve never had that in me. Most of the time that type of gear-centered work immediately seems to date itself to me. But photography is personal and everyone has their own trip so I get it. I suppose I do like that there’s a consistency to my photos, and a certain type of mood. So I’ve stuck pretty close to that.

My early influences were primarily Tobin Yelland, Robert Frank and early Annie Leibovitz. Tobin is obvious, he was everywhere when I was young, long before I started consciously realizing how special his photos were. I think a lot of what I still try to capture is a mood that’s in his early portraits. Morford had “The Lines of My Hand” by Robert Frank at the house and that was a big influence. Then I found the Annie Leibovitz self titled retrospective book on the ground while out skating and that book really influenced me. It has all these great photos of the Stones on tour in ’72. I think that’s why I started shooting a lot on skate tours, I loved those images. That was my first photo book… I still have it.

 

What would be your first memory of Dill? Do you guys have both the same, actually?

I think our memories of that are both a bit foggy, but we met when he crashed at my apartment in San Francisco and because of where I was living at that point I know it was 1993. I remember Dill’s energy more than anything. He talked a lot. He seemed really young and was super curious. I don’t remember skating together, only sitting together in my living room and walking up Hyde Street to the grocery store. I do remember we became friends, though, and we would see each other here and there after that, but rarely.

 Greg Hunt

Johannesburg, 2004.

Did it ever get more defined, as in knowing exactly what side of Dill you wanted to document?

Early on, I knew I didn’t want to force anything. It was never meant to a book about Dill's life, it was simply a document of our time together. There were long periods where I didn’t see him. There’s a lot of his life I was never a part of, so I just left it at that.

 

What do you reckon is Jason most interesting trait?

For me, it’s his brain. Dill is highly intelligent but has such an extremely unique way of looking at things. He is also one of the most consistent people I’ve known over the years, on the inside, but he’s ever changing on the outside. So that’s one thing I feel that makes this book so interesting is for the last seventeen years there’s been so many external changes with Dill but, at the same time, there's this total consistency in his ways.

 Greg Hunt

NYC, 2005.

Which of those ways do you think would surprise the most people that only know of his persona?

Probably just how consistent he is. If you Google Dill it looks like 20 different people but, honestly, he has never changed. And, on top of everything, he is most consistent as a friend, he cares about his friends more than anyone I know.

 

How would you describe yourself, compared to Dill?

Compared to Dill?? Dry. Ha!

 Greg Hunt

Los Angeles, 2017.

He is not the shy type, and you have such a close relationship that I can't really picture him having any guard up with you, but did you have moments where you put the camera down, or actually shot photos that you would most likely never show?

To be honest, not really. But there is an entire side to Dill’s life that I was never privy to. Maybe he wouldn’t have cared if I shot other things, but I didn’t really want to go there. Like I said, the book is more about my experience of our time together than a straight document of him.

 

How close is too close?

I don’t think there is a too close. Some of my favorite photo books go about as close as you can get… Eugene Richards, Jacob Holt, Jim Goldberg. But that wasn’t what this project was about.

 Greg Hunt

Los Angeles, 2017.

Actually, if you were to discuss this project at some sort of family diner type situation, how would you?

That would be pretty easy. I’d just say that I was lucky to be able to document one friend over so much time and in so many places around the world. There’s definitely the story of him almost dying from pills and booze, losing almost everything, then putting his life back together, but more than anything this book is a simple document of our friendship. I’d actually say that this book goes as much into an exploration of me as it does Dill in many ways. It’s hidden, in the photos, but it’s there. When I started shooting Jason I was having a hard time processing the transition from being a pro skater to a media type. I think I really missed being pro, and subconsciously I was using photography as a way to both connect and deal with that. But I only realized this recently, hence the title of the book.

 

Not to drag this into an already obsolete debate about film and digital photography, but as I find myself more and more often "rediscovering" old magazines, books, flyers, prints, ephemera that I had completely forgotten about in boxes or envelopes, I sometimes wonder what the new generation will have as souvenirs in twenty years, or more… Maybe that is a nostalgic way of thinking that only applies to our generation?

Do you mean will my kids be able to find this interview online when they are adults? [Laughter] Yeah, well, so many younger kids who grew up in the digital world seem to be really embracing analog photography and polaroids and postcard and records, etc. So I think that is a direct result of them growing up in a time where nothing is ever really held in your hand. I’d like to think people will always want to look at books and paper things. I personally prefer to shoot on film still, because I feel like negatives are a lot more stable than a hard drive. It’s hard to say where things are going, but we are in the future and it’s already a lot different than people thought it would look fifty years ago. We are not in empty white spaces in futuristic clothing, it kind of looks a lot more like the past than we thought it would. Blade Runner got it right. But I’d like to think that as digital grows so will people’s appreciation for physical things.

 

You can now get Ninety-Six Dreams, Two Thousand Memories directly from Paradigm Pubilishing, or from Palomino in Europe

 

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