Much of Tom Hunter’s work is based on his engagement with his local community in Hackney. I was interested to find that he is not originally from there but it has become his adoptive home. At what point does this insider/outsider status affect how we view our current community? Does it help that one can come into an area as an adult and so not be unduly influenced by one’s own experience growing up there?
Although his work is very much from a socially committed perspective, his use of Dutch painting as a model means he has a fairly unique take on how to represent the (primarily) housing issues that he depicts. He has found a way to illustrate his local community in a way that manages to sidestep traditional straight portrayal. As he says in Diane Smyth’s interview, it is a bonus if people get the connection to art history but it is not essential. Light and colour are fundamentally important in his photographs, which help to add a feeling on insidership to the results. An outsider might focus on elements of drabness and decay – “a blot on the landscape” as Hunter says.
I have to say I like pretty much all of the work shown on his site; he succeeds in depicting the residents of the Holly Street estate (“Holly Street Residents”) as well as a sense of loss when the estate began to be cleared (“Holly Street Voids”). Both sets use muted colours and light that give a sense of something ending, a fading away. “Unheralded Stories” refers back to art history to illustrate local vernacular history in a way that asks us to think a bit about what we are seeing.
Smyth, D. (s.d.) Think Global, Act Local. At: http://www.tomhunter.org/think-global-act-local/ (Accessed 05/08/2020).
“Holly Street Residents” at http://www.tomhunter.org/holly-street-residents-series/
“Holly Street Voids” at http://www.tomhunter.org/holly-street-voids/
“Unheralded Stories” at http://www.tomhunter.org/unheralded-stories-series/