Tom Hunter is an artist using photography and film, living and working in East London. He is Professor of Photography at the London College of Communications, University of the Arts, London, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and has an Honorary Doctorate from the University of East London. Tom has earned several awards during his career, his latest in 2016, the Rose Award for Photography at the Royal Academy, London.
Tom graduated from the London College of Printing in 1994 with his work ‘The Ghetto’, which is now on permanent display at the Museum of London. He studied for his MA at the Royal College of Art, where, in 1996, he was awarded the Photography Prize by Fuji Film for his series ‘Travellers’. In 2006 Tom became the only artist to have a solo photography show at the National Gallery, London with his series ‘Living in Hell and Other Stories’.
His work has specialised in documenting life in Hackney, depicting local issues and sensationalist news headlines with compositions borrowed from the Old Masters. For instance, his photograph of a squatter, Woman Reading a Possession Order, references Johannes Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. This photograph won the Photographic Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery. Of the photograph, which was shot with a large-format camera and printed in Ilfochrome process, Hunter said:
"I just wanted to take a picture showing the dignity of squatter life – a piece of propaganda to save my neighbourhood....The great thing is, the picture got a dialogue going with the council – and we managed to save the houses."
His photography has therefore done what most artists hope will come of their art; real social change. He has bridged the gap between politics and art, and walked across it too. Tom was handed keys to one of the famous Holly Street’s flats by Hackney Council so he could document residents before their evictions. On the project he says “It was rough and violent and there was graffiti and rubbish everywhere, but then you went into people’s homes and it was a warm experience – meeting these people who had put pride and effort into their homes and bringing up their kids. There was a contradiction going on between local government and decay, and personal pride. It was a privilege to work with the community before it was scattered to the wind.”
His photo postcard is taken at Hackney Marshes. Like many of Tom's images, here he references Pre-raphaelite paintings giving a sense of beauty and narrative to a maligned and overlooked place and culture.
We are delighted to have Tom's work as part of our Photo Postcard exhibition in October. For more info on the project and other participating artists go to http://bit.ly/2r0MUE4.