What I’ve Learned: A Photographer’s Journey is a Masters of Photography series dedicated to our students, exploring the stories behind the imagery they have created
Jeff Hulton is a photographer that has lived outside Boston for over 30 years, originally coming from Connecticut. He graduated from college in New York City and spent his sophomore year studying in Austria.
We noticed the quality of Jeff’s photos when he uploaded several to the photostream on the Masters of Photography website. His portrait of a young boy (see above) grabbed our attention in particular, which we reposted on our Instagram page on 8 June this year.
Wanting to know more about Jeff’s life and attitude to photography, we contacted him for a chat.
What made you want to start taking photographs?
Photography for me started at home with a mother and a cousin who loved to take photos. In college in Austria I discovered that art was far more than documenting your travels and came back to NY to study seriously. I had the greatest of privilege studying with Sol Libsohn, co-founder of The Photo League and later with Fred Picker at ZoneVI Workshop. After 11 startups in high tech I now spent most of my time pursuing the next image.
Initially, like many people I started documenting my family, my travels and my environment. After visiting the top art museums and cathedrals of Europe, I realized that Art and photography could be so much more. When back in NY, the more I studied other photographers work and sought out my own images, the more I realized I was seeing things in the world very differently and needed to express this. I am attracted to the abstractions of place and things, the qualities of light and the juxtapositions of color and so many “normal things” we encounter every day.
What do you enjoy in photography?
Photography for me is a way to discover the World. I take the greatest pleasure in walking or driving down new roads with my camera to simply experience and react to the marvelous things I see. I also for sure love Landscape but always seek out a new way of seeing traditional places.
“my photos suggest I am a very inquisitive person that sees things in an abstract way. I see connections of form and colour where obvious connections don’t exist”
What was the most influential moment in inspiring your photography?
When Sol Lipsohn in my junior year of college stood me up in front of the class with another photographer who excelled in showing the passion of his baro in NY but suffered from weak technique and said “You Mr. Hulton need to learn from this man and YOU Sir need to learn from Mr. Hulton. If the photo doesn’t move you it’s not going to move me!”
What does your photography say about you as a person?
I guess my photos suggest that I am a very inquisitive person that sees things in an abstract way. I see connections of form and colour where obvious connections don’t exist. I think of this in music like what bebop meant to straight ahead Jazz. The forms are there but man those guys took another road to get around it! Marvellous!
Which photographer or book has had the biggest impact on you? Why?
Next to Sol Lipsohn and working in his class, I think my favourite photographer is Brett Weston for the way he saw landscapes, natural detail and used form, light and shadow to illuminate something completely new. He clearly got me going in a different direction. And then there is Harry Gruyaert! How he sees colour [activecampaign]and form inspires me.
“Joel Meyerowitz has a great ability to help you focus on “spirit” and “life” and this is what I need to constantly refresh in my own work.The best images are never about equipment, place or technique, they are about spirit, light and your emotional response.”
Are you working on a photography project? Or do you have one in mind that you’d like to start?
I have three projects underway looking for expression. I have spent 4-5 sessions working in an old group of grain elevators in Buffalo. Seeing what Charles Scheeler did with similar subjects inspired me to try and abstract these forms in black and white. I am also distilling a group of images I did in Mexico with Arthur Meyerson’s Masters Class. For the first time I stepped out of my comfort zone a bit and worked a lot in colour and form. The work of Harry Gruyaert helped me see this way. The last and longest going project is to curate many, many images I have made in Yellowstone over the last 8 years. I get back there every year and each time my images drift farther from straight photography. And then there’s the upcoming 21 days in Japan come November/December!
What are your favourite photographs that you have taken?
I think I have two areas that have given me images I love. One are the portraits I have made when I found a connection with my subject. I have one from 1972 and one from last Oct in Mexico. The other area is the new color photos of form and light I did in Mexico. While these images have no direct rational meaning, they seem to capture something special for me about light, color and the interaction of form.
What is your favourite photograph by any photographer?
Probably the blowing curtain image that Minor White did (see below). It speaks to me of a form of energy/spirit behind the image.
How did the course benefit you?
Joel Meyerowitz has a great ability to help you focus on “spirit” and “Life” and this is what I need to constantly refresh in my own work. The best images are never about equipment, place or technique, they are about spirit, light and your emotional response. The course reinforced this and provided more ideas on how to approach your search for the next image.
In the course you have taken with us, what was your favourite lesson and why?
I loved “The Magicians Trick” because it shows you concrete examples of how to Up your Game and Raise your Desire.” Who doesn’t need that?
What is the best piece of photographic advice you have come across?
“Steal with your eyes” – Fred Picker. One of the great lessons of the Masters of Photography video series is that you can “steal with your eyes” not just listen. How Joel moves around like a dancer driven by his desire to interact with the subject on an emotional level. That is where great stuff happens.
Follow Jeff on instagram: @jhulton
Image 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7 by Jeff Hulton. Image 5 by Minor White.