November 21, 2017

Meet The #NewOriginals: The Joy of Hunter Abrams

Featured Portrait shot by Keith E. Morrison. Article Submitted to the Polaroid Originals Magazine by DJ Pangburn.

Hanging out with New York-based photographer Hunter Abrams, I was soon struck by his joy—one dedicated to the photographic image. A co-founder of Tabula Rasa magazine and editor for BFA, Hunter has covered a variety of culture and events, from fashion and philanthropy events to protests and street style. This celebratory mindset finds its way into his latest series of photographs, shot for our new collaboration with Ryan McGinley, the #NewOriginals. This new work with the Polaroid OneStep 2 camera brings viewers into a more personal orbit, showcasing friends and acquaintances in more intimate settings.

Hunter originally met McGinley at Art Basel Miami in 2016 while covering the festival for BFA. A curator, Antonia March, was holding life drawing classes, for lack of a better term, at The Standard hotel, so one of his friends recommend the photographer pose as a model because he’d shot a nude self-portrait following the election of Donald Trump.

He enthusiastically agreed and quickly found McGinley drawing his portrait. “After that, Ryan was like, ‘I’d like to photograph you’,” he recalls, laughing. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, that will never happen—that’s a pipe dream.’” A month later, Hunter was posing for McGinley’s Yearbook series. Shortly after that came an invitation to shoot Polaroid Originals for the #NewOriginals collaboration with McGinley.

Somewhat ironically, Hunter had already been shooting a lot of his personal work on the Polaroid Land Camera—nightlife shots of his friends and acquaintances with the flash on, much like Andy Warhol’s Polaroid photos. A friend had also given him a book of Robert Mapplethorpe’s Polaroid pictures, which now seems somewhat prophetic to him.

“I immediately fell in love with it: you have a print right away, and to be able to touch something immediately is incredible,” he explains. “But also, it’s done—you don’t need to f**k around with it. You can’t.”

Hunter started out studying painting at New York University but left after a year. But it wasn’t as if the year was lost. It was at NYU that he took courses on black-and-white and digital photography. By the time he left, he knew he would end up working in photography.

“I’ve always called my own work ‘fashion photojournalism’ because the events I like shooting tend to be in the fashion world because it’s so insular and I like the visual artistry,” he explains. “I also wanted to be a designer growing up, but I realized I sew like s**t. But in high school, I realized that I liked the idea of making images more than clothes.”

But for the #NewOriginals project, Hunter worked with color Polaroid photos. He also knew he was going to work with people he already knew or at least people with whom he had crossed paths in some way. He also opened himself up to the ideas his subjects had for the location and context of the shoots, which took him to friend’s wedding but also into a friend’s studio, which he was able to use for a weekend.

KC DREAMZ @kc_dreamz #kcdreamz #portrait #nyc #lgbt #nightlife #ny #artist #dollyparton #jolene

Ein Beitrag geteilt von hunterabrams (@hunterabrams) am

“Any chance I had to go out, either for work or for fun, I brought the camera out with me,” he explains. “In the studio, it was sometimes like, ‘Stand here… hmmm… no, here.’ Other times they would gravitate toward a certain space and it just seemed right.”

“For one of my photos my friend Blake was looking at me but his arm up on the window sill, and there were three other people there, and I said, ‘Okay, everybody movie’,” he recalls, who asked his friend to shift his gaze away from the camera.

To illuminate his shots, Hunter used a combination of floodlights, the flash, and natural lighting. For each scene, he did three or four test shots before snapping the final product, which typically involved two different setups, which allowed him to better gauge the light.

“People just kind of came in groups,” he says. “And there would be like 10 people all of a sudden, and it was like, okay, let’s knock it out. I tried to make these photographs a mix of things because my life is a mix of things.”

“I just wanted to turn a flashlight onto what my life looks like right now [in New York], and I felt like a lot happened in the two weeks I was shooting this project,” he adds, and wonders if the project made him more attuned to what was happening around him at that time. “I definitely felt like, oh my god, it’s everyone’s birthday this week, and my best friend is getting married on Saturday, and my dad is retiring this week! There was a lot of good s**t that happened, and I wanted the photos to have a sense of joy about them.”

Hunter’s work for the #NewOriginals project will be curated by photographer Ryan McGinley later this month and displayed in our upcoming exhibition in NYC this December.

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