Open call - we're looking for photographers

Zoink by Zaptronic

Photo essay Conceptual

Tobias Slater-Hunt

Tobias Slater-Hunt creates the most interesting shapes with bodies and his camera. Bodyscapes are a common theme among photographers but these images are beyond anything we've seen in this genre. Also notice how you can almost feel the flesh in those beautiful grey tones.

Tell us a little about your background – what path led you to becoming a photographer, and to doing what you’re doing today?

I have always been blessed with the ability to draw, an early talent discovery for those fortunate to have it. This led me to have a passion for visual arts, from wanting to be a comic book artist as a teenager to becoming a figurative painter. The body has always been a fascination for me. When I got to art school I was introduced to the magic of analogue photography, the control of light in the studio and then in the darkroom. Days I greatly miss. But I was hooked! And have been making photographs ever since.

How would you describe your work?

Well it is certainly all about bodies of one kind or another. Trying to find a sense of unity and sanity through the flesh we all occupy. I have suffered with long term health issues and my body has always been a deep concern and a source of social anxiety so I wanted to make work that was very body inclusive, to celebrate the variety of the body rather than seeking any conformity to cultural beauty standards. This all started with my Closer to God series which I started for my masters degree. Large format prints of nudes with fictional facial deformities all made to question what can be considered beauty. This can be found on my website.

Over the last 15 years it has become much more rooted in the digital. Trying to find out what the digital language is, trying to develop my own. I have absolutely no idea where the work will go when I am making it. I used to work towards a fixed idea of a final image, but now I tend to shoot how I feel in reaction to my sitter when in the studio. And then try to leave the images to ferment quietly for a few weeks before returning to them to edit. It is while editing that I find the image. Multiple versionsof selected images are made until I discover the one that works.I still return to images that I may have shot years ago and find something new and surprising in them.

Can you tell us a bit more about your process?

All my work is made in a small domestic studio, I like the creative limits it sets, and the challenge of overcoming them. The budget is pretty good too. I usually use only one or two lights, partly because of the size of the space, but I generally like to keep things simple.

I use social media to send call outs for collaborators and try my best to work with people that are not “models”. Although I do work with a lot of life models, I am always looking for interesting bodies to celebrate with my image making. So I try to use an almost open door policy to the studio, often not knowing what the sitter looks like before they arrive. A lot of the process is about generating an atmosphere of trust and collaboration and trying to enter into an image making dialogue with the sitter. Many have never modeled before, let alone while naked, so trust is a huge part of the process. I share the images with the sitter as we go along, allowing them to see how things are progressing and allow them to take part in the image making process with suggestions and ideas. We do get through a lot of tea!

Which camera and lenses do you use?

I have been using a Pentax k 70 for some years but I have always found the aspect ratio of 35mm deeply frustrating. It is this and the sensor size that lead me to the process of shooting each image in sections and then piecing it all together like a giant jigsaw puzzle to find the optimum composition and to enable me to make reasonably sized prints. Due to this process I usually shoot with a 35mm or 50mm lens to avoid distortion, which makes the jigsaw puzzle almost impossible to complete! I have recently upgraded to a Fujifilm gfx 50 medium format camera and I have to say I have fallen in love with photography all over again! I am now able to make an image in a single shot, which sounds like an obvious photographic technique but I am still getting used to it.

In your opinion, what circumstances can guarantee a good photograph? Or what are you looking for in a picture?

I think composition is the key aspect of a good photograph. Everything hinges on this. Great emotional charge can be lost with poor composition, but a well balanced image can be as technically near the limits of being wrong as the photographer wants, under or over exposed, out of focus, all of these are options as long as they are being supported by good composition. We are after all “making an image” not copying life, or capturing a moment. Whether it's the decisions being made with the camera, in the darkroom, or on the computer, all of these steps are part of making an image, the hand of the photographer ever present.

© Pictures by Tobias Slater-Hunt