Vicki Wilson Hunt is one of the photographers in this years Depth of Field.
Quiet moments in the gentle rocking of a porch swing, enjoying the shade and the coolness of a glass of lemonade.
Snapping green beans in to a white enamel bowl while chatting with the kit and kin.
Cotton aprons and quilts swaying on the clothes line.
Fighting the hornets for the treasure of a windfall of ripe peaches.
Spanish moss wrapping itself around the oaks, and the song of katydids bidding us goodnight.
Vicki Wilson Hunt’s photography captures all the beautiful decay, history, and mystery that is the South.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
After graduating from the University of Alabama, getting married and raising kids, I enrolled in the Black and White Photography program at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL campus. After moving to Atlanta in 1999, I taught hand coloring photos with oils and alternative photography procedures at a visual art center. Atlanta Celebrates Photography was my biggest influence, as I stepped into the world of fine art photography and began to enter juried competitions and have group and solo shows.
How did you get started photography?
I was sorority photographer in my junior year of college. For the next 15 years, I was content to photograph family. When my kids went to college I returned wholeheartedly to my passion.
Did your family and upbringing affect your decision to become an artist?
My father was an accomplished photographer. I have all of his cameras and sometimes shoot with his Rolleiflex and Brownie. Dad was a Birmingham detective in the 1960’s and documented some of the civil rights movement. His photos were in the, “Road to Freedom”, at the High Museum. These photos made me so curious about my home state that I became more serious about my work.
My Mother had a hair stylist salon called “Alice’s Artists”, where she showcased local artists on every wall. I began buying art in 1976. Photographic prints became a part of my collection in 1993, when I was able to swap, buy, or win a piece in a silent auction.
Which photographers and other artist work do admire?
I am most inspired by the amazing work of Peter Sekaer, Dorothea Lange, and Walker Evans. I am in love with Jack Spencer’s work, which is a combination of important scenes from the south with a fine art look. I constantly gaze on his work and consider it the best ever. I keep his book by my bed.
And what about their work inspires you?
Sekaer, Lange, and Evans recorded America. I have stood where Walker Evans stood in Natchez and photographed a Gothic building. I have been inside poverty-stricken homes and thought about how Sekaier would deal with this. He had such a way with people who made them comfortable as they exposed their living conditions to him and his camera. Likewise, Spencer’s important artistic but documentary style makes me want to sit at his feet and learn. Maybe one day I can take his workshop.
When did you start to develop a personal style?
I believe my work has evolved. I shoot a variety because not only is the “rest of my life” work more documentary, about the south, its land, people, and quirks, but I work with my galleries on installations, whether it is a hotel, business or permanent collection. That means I constantly photograph architecture and various scenes that I believe will be appealing to my art consultants. Although I still use some film, digital allows me to shoot hundreds of pictures for an assignment.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
Being a woman is sometimes risky business, especially for some of the places I go to shoot. I have been chased with a pitchfork as I made my approach at a scene in the deep south and on more than several occasions been surrounded by security guards while shooting in the wrong place. I have been forbidden by my family to go back to certain poverty-stricken areas where improper dealings were going on. My husband has said many times he will plant a cross where I die, somewhere on the road with my camera.
How do you over come a creative block ?
I get in my car and go shoot. I lose myself in the adventure and find that more than likely a magic moment is around the corner. I am never disappointed and returning home with even one shot encourages me. Meeting and talking to people even when I don’t get a picture makes me feel the journey is worthwhile, because I usually make a friend.
Would you tell us about your workspace?
I have just had a major move and have some chaos going on, but I can tell this will be the best workspace ever in this house. I work from 5 computers, 5 externals and hundreds of dvds. Two printers and a scanner along with the computers fill two work tables. This workspace will finally allow me to get organized so that slides, film, cameras and digital files are easily stored and accessible. Organization is very important for me because it is not unusual to get requests from consultants, who want to show some of my work for a project and need a file immediately. I also do encaustics for an Atlanta gallery. The ambient light in this studio is perfect.
How important is it to your art form to have “creative community”?
I have always, since 1992, been in a photo club. The Atlanta Photography Group has been the most important one to me. The jurors are always extremely important and sought after. This Group has been a platform for me to show my front porch series in select portfolio shows on two occasions. I feel like I am “solo” now having moved to a new city and not being in a club here. Also, of great importance to me is education and keeping up with the latest technology. I took an encaustic class a number of years ago and continue to sell my small work panels. I take at least one class every year in art procedures or Photoshop techniques.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
I frame everything in my mind. I sometimes feel sorry for people who just pass things by and never notice. I try not to miss a thing and always turn around in the car to take a 2nd look at something that caught my attention. If the light isn’t right I go back later. I notice things like the sky, the funny sign, the person on the porch, or the unique shadow to mention a few. I have often been asked, “What in the world are you shooting?”. As I photograph people on their porch, I get to know them, send them a picture, or help them with an obstacle. I have a nice pen pal group all over the southern region and many of them call me on the phone. This is a special way to feel a part of the larger community and it all starts with my camera.
Is there another type of photography or subject matter you would like to tackle?
I always try to go back to film. I keep Dad’s Brownie with me and sometimes shoot with a Diana and Holga for fun. I am working on a series about the Redneck Riviera with film and that should take years to finish. I would love to spend a month with Dad’s Rolleiflex and numerous rolls of black and white film just practicing on manual focus and light meter. I also love street photography and keep Vivian Maier’s book by my bed. My greatest desire is to publish a Southern book. I have started a timeline.
Where can we see your work, and would you like to share any upcoming projects ?
My Southern website is www.vickiwilsonhunt.com. Thanks to John Bennette who encouraged me to separate my stock work from my southern work. I have enjoyed having a more polished approach to showcase a complete body of my southern work. I have just installed an architectural piece in my Alabama Senator’s office at the Alabama State House, as well as, a piece selected for inclusion in a northern hotel and over 60 pieces at Wellstar in Acworth, Georgia. Soho Myriad, Frameworks Gallery, and Watson Gallery in Atlanta continue to show my work. Art consultant Jennifer Hunt of Birmingham, Alabama and M. Schon Gallery, who had a solo show for me in 2012 in Natchez, Mississippi. They also promote my photography. I feel this is the year to work on a strong portfolio. I truly hope to be a part of Photonola this year and have presented my work for consideration in the show. Mostly I will focus on the portfolio review and the workshops.
Any stories about your work you would like to share?
I have so many stories. Although the art of writing is difficult for me, I tell my stories in my blog in simple language with no frills, just as they happened. Many of my stories are heartbreaking. Some people lose their homes due to foreclosure and others have died. One precious friend was perhaps just buried in Potter’s Field. I have been invited to church in Gee’s Bend, to go fishing in the Alabama river, to cook out in the trailer park, and to photograph the annual Tuskegee checkers tournament. I have been in a one room shack with 9 of us in the room and I am a loyal fan of the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo which first caught my attention in the late 1970’s. I have a very small blankets ministry and have added books, toys, socks, and shoes to my list. Sometimes my girlfriends have asked if they can ride with me on an adventure on the back roads. I encourage them to look around the corner because there is always someone nearby who can use a little help. The sky is my limit because the needs are vast, people are lonely, and southerners are friendly. I have been visiting a Ms. Edna in the local indigent nursing home. When I asked a nurse what I could do to help, she replied that I could come polish the little lady’s fingernails. Simple things go a long way.
Thank you Vicki for sharing your time and your art. To learn more about the work of Vicki Wilson Hunt please visit her site at. Rural South.