November 6, 2015
“You know, life has been good to me, I’ve been blessed”. Indeed Sonny, life has been good to you, but you’ve been just as good to life, and your customers. Sonny Cox is one of those men, one of those men that my father would’ve called a “good man” and he didn’t sprinkle that term around. It took a certain level of honesty, workmanship and character to be honored with that term and Sonny has earned it many times with me over the many years we’ve know each other. Sonny has been keeping my Toyotas on the road since the early 1990’s and me out of dealerships and debt for just as long. If you believe in the philosophy of vehicle ownership as “Drive them til the wheels fall off” then Sonny is your kind of man. Sonny has steered me in the right direction with my aging Toyotas (Sonny has always pronounced them Toe Yodas) from when to and when not to, repair or replace certain items, preventative life prolonging measures, some things that can slide and things that need immediate attention. Sonny has been much more than a mechanic, Sonny has been a true friend and an entertaining humorist during drives home (Sonny doesn’t need directions to our house).
Sadly, but understandably and certainly deservedly, Sonny will be retiring at the end of November since opening his shop in 1983 and working on Toyotas for many years before that, either at a dealership or from his Medlock Park home garage, near Decatur Georgia. When I came by last month to shoot his portrait, Sonny was taking down his long standing carbon crusted and dusty signs off the walls of his garage, old muffler ads shock fit guides and the like. Not to mention the various collection of oily and worn out parts that I used to refer to as Sonny’s 1000 Word Museum. Sonny would take down a part he’d stripped off a vehicle to show exactly what he was talking about when talking a customer into a much needed repair. Timing belts with no teeth left and threadbare, clutches that looked like two pie plates that had been dragged behind a car and bulbous radiator hoses with various herniated ready-to-repture features. Like it was meant to be, I looked in the trash can which was nearly full and ready to head to the street and there was the sign that meant so much to me. A hand painted sign that had greeted and informed customers that he “Positively Did Not Accept Checks” or credit cards for that matter. This sign was particularly meaningful to me for the fact that Sonny DID accept my checks after years of knowing him. The sign is now in my garage and I feel so lucky to have been there the day it was taken down. I will always cherish it as a part of our relationship, and gained trust for one another.
When Sonny started the small three bay garage in the early 1980’s at the end of Aldridge Avenue in Scottdale, folks were filling his bays with the 1960’s and 1970’s Toyotas they were valiantly keeping alive, Coronas, Celicas, Corollas, FJ’s, small sensible-sized pickups. By 1975 Toyota had eclipsed the #1 import (VW) for number of imports into the US. Sonny had made a great move to capture both the older cars business and the newer owners who were tired of the dealership’s bays and their sometimes exorbitant prices for routine maintenance. It also helped that Sonny loved and respected the product itself. Sonny would always use Genuine Toyota Parts and had a severe disrespect for shoddy workmanship and substandard parts. Sonny has stood behind his work, always and has built his reputation and loyal customer base on it.
Yesterday I brought Sonny this farmed portrait and a thank you card for him and his masterful mechanic Paul, who’s been working with Sonny for a decade. Sonny and I had a walk together in the soft warm unseasonable rain, so he could show me the boundaries of the property that would eventually be something new and modern some day. Huge oak trees all over the property will eventually come down, as will the 1950’s rental homes as well scattered on the gently sloping property. The old block squares that once were foundations for barbershops and stores from the early 20th century will be bulldozed and leave no trace of what was once there. Sonny told me of the old passed-on friends who’d lived in those houses and once again told me just how blessed and fortunate he felt to have been able to experience it all.
Quite possibly as blessed and fortunate as it has been for all of us to have known you Sonny.
March 4, 2015
Living Room ©2015 Chris Hunt
To me there’s something decidedly creepy and sad about a vacant house, they’re almost like ghost ships. Double that if it’s a place you spent your years growing up. For the time being, I’m acting as the caretaker of my parents former home that’s for sale in north Atlanta, Georgia after the sudden death of my step-mom in November last year, the long time family house is up for sale. Anne Ruth was one of those folks I just knew wasn’t going to go peacefully into a nursing facility and she lived life on her own terms, driving and living independently until her last day on earth. In early November she said about 1AM and after not being able to climb the stairs she’d climbed for over 30 years, “I think it’s time to go to the hospital”. She died within hours of that astute personal observation, I loved her and she loved me and we grew to respect on another.
The house is in a cheery neighborhood full of late upper middle class 1960’s era suburban homes and well off young professional families, near a busy, sought after and popular area, known collectively as City of Brookhaven and sits in the subdivision so regally called Hampton Hall, with streets named after classic English writers and thinkers. The house, a standard 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath brick two story was my home from the early 1970’s, up until the early 1980’s, basically my teenage years home after we (family of five) moved on up from the small 2 bedroom 1 bath house on North Druid Hills Road. In one move it more than doubled our living space and was wonderful. It served well for generations of family members and hosted hundreds of family get togethers, in addition to allowing my father to finally see being a great grandfather before his death in spring 2010. The house was a constant gathering place for 41 years of warm and inviting birthdays, Thanksgivings and Christmas celebrations for all forms of family, extended family, past spouses, current girlfriends and boyfriends and even served as a home hospice in ironically the room referred to as the living room for my mother dying of cancer in 1976 and my father some 34 years later from a hip fracture and subsequent complications. The house saw births deaths and breathed right along with the grief and happiness moments lived by all who entered its aging 1970’s welcoming door. It was the hub of family gatherings and represented a meeting place and refuge for many a family member or guest who needed a roof and a meal in a desperate time. It earned its scuffs, floor strains and peeling paint and always came back for more. It’s with a heavy heart that I am now tasked with essentially being the caretaker of the property, making sure the furnace is working during this bleak southern winter and making security rounds to thwart mischief. The house has a deafening stillness now that it hasn’t seen since 1973 when we as a family moved in. Sitting still in the house one can just hear the first birds of spring muffled outdoors and the rhythmic ventilator-like breathing in and out of the furnace keeping the place warm inside. I even briefly entertained the idea of scraping together everything I had, selling my current house in Decatur and pouring it all into this one to keep the shrine alive and in the family, but I am not going to do that, for one thing it’s way more house than I need. I’d say if anything can be gleaned from this humbling house caretaker experience and solemn duty of keeping the home’s circulatory system active, is that truly a house is indeed not a home, it’s a vessel, it’s the people inside it that make it a home and there are no people left here.
The photos I made might not ever affect anyone the same way they affected me and that’s OK. Ever since going over there, I’ve been trying to convey just the severe sense of loneliness and emptiness the house now has to it. Another thing (actually two) is, in the back of my mind for years I’ve always wanted to do a photo essay on former residences and childhood homes and how they have a profound affect when passing by them as adults, even decades later one has a tendency to always look over at a house they grew up in when passing, what’s changed, what’s grown huge in the yard. That and the fact that I have a deep fascination with abandoned structures and vacant buildings, the work accomplished there and the people who spent lifetimes inside of them. The opportunity would probably never arise to actually go in a former residence to do such images and I knew it was now or never to get these done.
Office Redrum.©2015 Chris Hunt
Upstairs hallway to children’s rooms and office ©2015 Chris Hunt
Guest room ©2015 Chris Hunt
Stairwell ©2015 Chris Hunt
Dining room ©2015 Chris Hunt
Den ©2015 Chris Hunt
Kitchen with found graduation photo ©2015 Chris Hunt
A drawing I did of my father during the last few weeks of his home hospice. Drawings were one of the ways I coped. Dad would drift into long otherworldly sleeps, allowing all the family care givers to sleep as well. The house was silent at this time except for the oxygen machine and ever ticking clocks. Exhaustion.
A week before my father passed. This was a particularly taxing day both emotionally and physically for all of us. My step-mother Anne, ever vigilant and loving, by his side, who lost twenty pounds by this time, shows the grief in ways I can not describe.
©2015 Chris Hunt
May 28, 2014
Last Friday at 10 AM the phone rings, a voice on the other end of the line sounding vaguely familiar says “Chriiis, this is Bob, I think I have an assignment with your name written all over it”. It turned out to be my old colleague from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution News Photo Department and photo editor Bob Andres who I hadn’t heard from in years. “We have an invitation from the City to take a tour of a building you might like to photograph”, “There could be a little hazard involved though … do you happen to own a respirator and a Tyvec suit?”. OK with that info, I said “I’m in baby!” … Armed with camera, tripod, caving helmet, headlamp, boots, particulate mask and duct taped pant legs, and reflective wear in case I fell down an elevator shaft at least they could point to my body and say that’s where he is. I got the rare opportunity to photograph inside the decaying old Atlanta Constitution Building located at the corner of Alabama and Forsyth Streets in ‘the heart of the city’ as it was known when it was built in 1947. The building, which has sat vacant and subject to the ravages neglect for decades, weather, fire and generations of the homeless is pretty much a highly odiferous train wreck inside at this point. Numerous B&E’s by shelter dwellers since the early 1960’s has made the place horribly sordid sea of trash, liquor bottles, soiled clothes, humane waste and decaying building materials inside. The once flagship building, built for 3 million dollars and opened in 1947 and vacated a mere six years later after the Constitution quickly outgrew it, sported marble accents, artwork, custom floor tiling and state of the art production for the city’s printed news source established in the late 1800’s. The once proud Constitution building sits on the original site of the Constitution building, built some thirty years years after the Civil War ended and Atlanta started the painstaking process of rebuilding itself after Sherman’s March To The Sea and the Battles of Atlanta burned a large portion of the city in the 1860’s. The current state of the ‘old Constitution building’ as it’s known by most is currently owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation with plans for the City to purchase and renovate the structure. My assignment was to try and document the building in the condition it sits today, before the process of hauling out decades of trash, cleaning and potential development evaluation begins. The opportunity to go inside this building has been sort of a dream, since I worked just across the ‘gulch’ and saw it every day I walked into work at the relatively modern Atlanta Journal-Constitution building on Marietta Street from 1987-2008. Even though most of the salvageable materials, production machines and artwork are long gone, the echoes of a once bustling newspaper building still ring in the hallways.
All images © 2014 M. Chris Hunt/Chuntimages.com, no use without express permission.
Hallway of the fifth floor executive offices. © 2014 Chris Hunt Photography
Office with a view on the fifth floor executive floor. One particularly interesting thing about this image is it not only shows another home of the Atlanta Newspaper and production facility (beige buildings left in foreground) , but the parking lot to the right was yet another site for the newspaper. © 2014 Chris Hunt Photography
Below street level loading dock, newspaper distribution and storage area. © 2014 Chris Hunt Photography
A ceiling stalactite created from leached materials from the building’s decaying floors and walls. © 2014 Chris Hunt Photography
Fifth floor sea of homeless jetsam. © Chris Hunt Photography
A wooden ladder most likely used for shelf access inside the building now serves other purposes and one way to gain access to the derelict building. © 2014 Chris Hunt Photography
Time. Has definitely taken its toll. A roof building houses the huge elevator motor. ©2014 Chris Hunt
The door many have entered. Lower street level and loading dock. © 2014 Chris Hunt
Unknown purpose machine. © 2014 Chris Hunt
Fifth floor executive washroom with its 2″ thick marble privacy dividers between the urinals. One does have to wonder, given the very similar color scheme, just how much of the 1940’s color scheme and materials were influenced by the Varsity restaurants renovation going on at the same time. © 2014 M. Chris Hunt All Rights Reserved
Gold Dome roof view facing east. © Chris Hunt Photography.
April 12, 2014
So Cool! The Professional Photographers of America have chosen me as one of their Faces of the PPA. Scroll down through the archive to find out just how I made this image and what inspired me to do so. © 2013 Chris Hunt Photography
March 17, 2014
I’m very happy to be shooting profile and environmental portraits for the EDU Atlanta (special section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper) section. One of the sort of unexpected things about the assignments is I get to go to a lot of the metro Atlanta Colleges and Technical Schools. In one week I was shooting at Atlanta Technical College, SCAD Savannah College of Art and Design and historic Bauder College, which is the actual site of Terminus (the former name of Atlanta)! I was amazed at the furthering education opportunities available to people. From Fashion design and marketing to Graphic Design to Nursing degrees and even barber, truck mechanic or even airplane mechanics. Not to mention meeting some very cool people who are motivated and excited about the future.
August 6, 2013
So happy to see images I shot early this summer for a story on the future of cancer research at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University making it to the Emory University home page. This was a particularly satisfying moment once I recalled the difficulties getting this angle for the shot. Peeking through from the opposite row of research stations and through a narrow opening, I was able to get a much preferred front shot of the researchers. All other angles were from the back (not good) or the side (too vertical), which were nowhere near what I needed or wanted. Glad to see the work paid off. Read the full story here. Photo below shows my photo angle (and unfortunately my bald spot).
May 31, 2013
What a cool experience and I’m honored to have been highlighted by someone I equally admire. Scott Thigpen is a fellow bikepacker from the south, in addition to being an amazing illustrator, writer and endurance mountain bike racer. I guess that’s just a few reasons we get along. Scott took the time out of his super busy schedule of freelance illustrating, teaching and putting in hundreds of miles in preparation for the 2600 mile long non-stop Great Divide Mountain bike race to ask me a few questions regarding my own experiences and how I got started in this amalgamated pass time. Glad I have something to offer …
Photo Illustration © Scott Thigpen 2013 http://www.thigpendesigns.com
Nice use of an HDR photo I made recently of the newly renovated Infusion Center waiting area at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University here in Atlanta, GA. HDR imagery was really one of the only ways to capture the stunning new skylight (it’s a beautiful overhead light – not the actual sky) that hopefully helps folks cope in a small way who are going through the helpful but often exhausting treatments at the Center. See a larger version here in addition to new the infusion area.
March 27, 2013
©Chris Hunt Photography 2013 Story goes, Billy’s mother died giving birth to his older brother. That’s what I heard anyway. As a child I was influenced by a few things: MAD Magazine with Mort Druker’s and Jack Davis’s spot on caricatures, National Lampoon, B rated horror flicks on TV, Matt Helm movies and Wacky Packages collector cards featuring the amazing early art of none other than Art Spiegelman. Not that other things didn’t play in now and then, but a 9 year old has his passions. Skateboarding, bike, motorcycles, art and girls came later. I created this image, like many other from a conglomeration of stuck memories and bad southern stereotypes (yes I know the cap is BLUE). To tell truth I was actually testing out my new beauty dish and background. This guy just kind of surfaced from the ashes of memory and bizarre fantasy. My good friend Peggy said it looked like a MAD Magazine cover when she saw it. That and the fact that she loved it and hated it all the same. I say, well said Peggy! Now the boring techy bits if you’ve gotten this far. The image was shot on a Nikon D7000 and employed three Nikon SB-800 speedlights controlled by my ever so useful camera mounted SU-800 wireless commander module, which allows me to control the mode and output power of all my lights. Did I say I love this thing! Camera right is my Cowboy Studio beauty dish, which I’ve spent considerable time modifying from it’s original mount to a more robust mount using a lot of sheet metal screws and Wescott speedrings to beef it all up with. Camera left, instead of my usual reflector, I used a large Wescott white umbrella to bounce a flash off. Background was another SB unit with (originally) a red gel but I changed the whole color to blue due to the fact the red was competing with my face, suspenders in addition to the fact it looked like salmon in the photo anyway. The original image was part of a lighting test, like many of my “projects” start out. Honestly I get tired of the same guy showing up in my photos, so I create these characters from time to time to spice things up. Oh, and the fact that while exploring a local costume shop, one of the owners identified me as a “natural born costumer” after she admired my pseudo authentic Gulf Oil jacket I created and ‘aged’ in the backyard a month. It’s a sickness and one I come by naturally, but I can’t deny I must actually be a “costumer” and I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a malady or a profession. I imported the image, which was way too dark in the first place, into Photoshop and had to do some digital calisthenics right off the bat to get it close to viewable. As this was part of a real lighting test, but an image I liked, I wasn’t willing to let it go to the digital garbage heap just yet. I wanted to see what I could do with it. I ended up racking the Shadows/Highlights slider on PS all the way to the right which created the first illustrated look to it. I then imported the image into Photomatix Pro HDR software to do some harsh tone mapping to it. It then was re-imported to Photoshop for further Smart sharpening, color wrangling and background color changing. I added the dirt on the shirt, sweat and whiskey stains and deepened the wrinkles cracks and crevasses on my face for a more haggard look. Finally after showing it to one of my #1 critics and supporters, Peggy and getting her honest and candid comments on the “MAD” look of it and said it was theatrical. I’d also like to point out that Peggy is an excellent longtime photography teacher and I respect her opinion immensely. Peggy is one of the few people who could look at this image and see it subjectively enough to know the technical backflips one would need to achieve to create such a thing and not come down on me, or try and over analyze some judgmental underlying pity or derision for the creator. Regarding the type style. I actually was able to find and download the font MAD uses for their covers for the parody. The type style can be imported into Photoshop easily. For you illustration, Photoshop and retouching fans, please see this page for a before/after of this shot.
Photos I shot of a two artist household in Atlanta last month. The owners, one an award winning writer and playwright, the other is an EMMY winning TV producer and former touring puppeteer. I absolutely loved shooting their eclectic and colorful home and was honored they wanted me to do it. The home was a true labor of love and sweat for many years for both of them. The home sold within a week of the real estate listing. Yes, a WEEK! All photos were HDR images. In all over fifteen photos were shot and rendered for the real estate listing. The shoot alone took nearly 3 hours and the HDR assemblies and transmissions took another half day to perform. The client charge was my standard day rate. More images can be seen on my Architectural and Interiors page here.
All images ©Chris Hunt Photography/Chuntimages 2013