By Kristen M. Foley
Photography has changed considerably since Chad Hunt graduated from CCAD in 1994 with his BFA in photography. While technology has made the photographer’s job easier, it also has made it tougher in some ways. “The current iPhone has a higher screen resolution than the first digital camera I shot with that cost $5,000,” notes Hunt. “You can find photographers much easier now, too. Sometimes it’s hard to stand out in that world.”
But Hunt stands out, nonetheless, because his talent goes far beyond the ability to click a shutter button and press “send.” The artistic elements in his photos frame the observable world and give it meaning, something that he believes stems from his experiences at CCAD.
Since then he has captured thousands of images. His most recent endeavors have taken him to war-torn Afghanistan, where he was embedded with American troops. His photographs capture the soldiers as well as the dramatic, on-edge environment in which they must live every day.
“My first trip over there I paid my own way and completed it as a freelance project,” Hunt says. “I was bored with regular photography, and I had this idea that I wanted to be embedded, so I looked into it and just did it.”
That impulse led to a total of three trips to Afghanistan over two years, during which Hunt slept next to machine guns, witnessed firefights, and ultimately charted a new direction in his career.
His most intense memory is when he first stepped off a military helicopter onto the Afghanistan ground in September 2006.
“It was almost a ‘careful what you wish for’ sort of thing,” laughs Hunt now. “When I got off the helicopter, it was really dark, and I went into the tent and slept for like 15 minutes. All of a sudden the lieutenant came in and said, ‘A Humvee has been hit, and they’re taking fire. This is what you wanted right? You’re going into a firefight.’ I jumped up and I was like, crap I’m really here. Now I actually have to do this.”
Hunt quickly settled in. “It’s amazing to connect with these individuals on this level. It’s really a matter of asking them questions and telling them you are there to tell their story,” reflects Hunt. “Just spending time with them goes a long way in earning their trust.”
In 2008, his photograph of Sergeant Major David Combs at the Korengal Outpost in Afghanistan made the cover of Time magazine.
The success was welcome, but with each military trip, Hunt found that editors became less likely to assign him to anything but “guys, gears, and guns” stories.
So he’s switching it up again. At the time of this interview, he was preparing to embark on a trip to Haiti to capture new images for the World Wide Orphan Foundation. “I’m excited—it’s an opportunity to re-prove myself,” he says. Given Hunt’s track record, we expect the trip will broaden not only his worldview, but ours.
Published in print twice a year, CCAD’s IMAGE magazine shares stories about our creative community, whether here in Columbus or around the world—what we’re doing, thinking, and planning next. The IMAGE blog brings those stories online for transmission at the click of a mouse.