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12 July 2014

W.M. Hunt’s Collection, Foule

This passion for collecting is foolish. Collectors must be fools. Fou. Foule. Welcome to Hunt’s three-ring circus.

It took awhile in my own collecting to have the confidence in my own ‘eye’ to be image driven as opposed to being caught up in the reputation of the artist. And if you are really humming as a collector at some point the photographs start to find you.

Collectors play by their own rules. We have all sorts of reasons for acquiring stuff, sometimes thoughtful or thought through and sometimes arbitrary. These works are from a collection that has come together over the past fifteen years or so. I like these photographs. Images of groups seem to occupy a small subset within the history of photography. And if you only deal with American photographs made before 1950, you still get to look at a pretty wacky assortment, and even though photographers seem to live forever, most of these have gone on to that big group on the other side. Dealing with them is sadly but sweetly one sided.

Posses, clubs, teams, graduations, parades, rallies, clans, fraternities, assemblies, ceremonies, choruses, and mobs are all here. It strikes me that it is be difficult to make these pictures. The logistics are tricky. First of all, you need a bunch of people and a group that will cooperate. It’s hard to get everyone into the shot at the same moment. Then beyond the record making or documentary nature of these images, the aesthetic challenges to making something artful must be daunting.

Who are these people and what brought them together? These are bizarre, enigmatic visual matrices of information that we can attempt to decode many ways. I like when the blacks and whites play against each other in some sort of unique pattern, literally like a musical staff with notes. Think of these as visual arpeggios. This is jazz.

This is not a definitive collection of photographs. These are fun and odd, and they resonate with me. These photographs find me, and I like having them and here, sharing them.

That is the pleasure of collecting.

W.M. Hunt

(this text is adapted from an essay written for the Houston Center for Photography in 2010).

Exhibition venue: Palais de l’archevêché, Rencontres d’Arles 2014.