First Book: Bill Hunt

Posted in First Book by charlie b. ward on April 1, 2010

I have been going around to photographers asking them one question: “What was the first photo book that you can remember buying or seeing that really had a strong affect on you?”

Alec was able to ask the gallerist Bill Hunt the same question. Here is Bill’s response:

‘I am a reflection photographing other reflections within a reflection. To photograph reality is to photograph nothing.’

The first book I remember caring about is Duane Michals “Real Dreams”  (Addison House 1976).  It is still magical.  The sequences have a theatrical and spiritual center.  I must have gone through a couple of dozen copies because I kept giving them to friends.  It seemed to communicate in a way that I felt but couldn’t articulate myself.

When I met Duane I actually bent down and kissed the hem of his pants, an act that took both of us considerably by surprise.  It did make an impression.  He is truly a master of many things, and we have some history together.

He did a very a special holiday card to benefit Photographers + Friends Against AIDS (“Merry Christ Mouse” leaving what seemed to be a very questionable – vaguely scatological – gift near the Christmas tree).  I can be a fairly emphatic and direct speaker, but was totally left in Duane’s wake at a speaking engagement with him at the Savannah College of Art and Design where he dramatically and hysterically insisted that the students take themselves and their careers seriously and not settle into any sort of complacency.  Recently he came to my gallery to look at Paolo Ventura’s “Winter Stories”, and it struck me as the most powerful endorsement a contemporary artist working with fantasy could receive.  Further Duane bought a piece and said it was the first photograph he had ever purchased.

I love Duane.  So much of my considerable passion for photography can be traced back to “Real Dreams” and his unparalleled ability to take you into his imagination.

A further note, I think that I bought all those copies of “Real Dreams” at A Photographer’s Place, the late lamented bookstore on Mercer St. owned by Harvey Zucker.  Anyone over a certain age truly cut their teeth on books in that store.  You could spend hours in there browsing and buying.  He and the staff were wellsprings of information about photographers and books.  Also you always ran into or got introduced to people there.  It was a real hangout. Amazon does not provide nearly the same experience.

And that’s the story of my first photo book.

WM Hunt

4 Responses

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  1. re: photographica (George) said, on April 1, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Bill, we must have rubbed elbows at A Photographer’s Place. I swear that Harvey had a direct line on my Visa card in the 1980s. I wish I’d been more gregarious then, I would have gotten to know more people.

    I don’t remember “Real Dreams” there, but I do remember a pile of Winogrand’s El Cajon catalogue — I wish I’d bought multiples of that so I wouldn’t worry every time I open my frail shelf copy these days. I remember all the hand-lettered signs, and that low trough of books in the middle of the space.

    I coveted, and finally bought, the Friedlander two-fer that he offered what seemed like forever, “Flowers and Trees” and “American Monument.” I think the combined price was something like $450. I’ve consigned that F&T to Swann for the May auction. Monument, however, is glued to my shelf.

  2. bob black said, on April 2, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE DUANE MICHALS…..we’ve got 3 of his books….and he was the first photogrpaher who inspired me toward the possibility of photography…his work continued to be an inspiration…

    and that quote was the same quote i used for my essay ‘bones of time’….

    i still turn to his books when I’m feeling depressed or down or bored with phtoography…because there is unmitigated joy and celebratory life in those pics, even in the pics so consummed by death….

    to build a fucking pyramid is to build a life, our own :)))

    im in total agreement!


  3. Dani Voirin said, on April 25, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    I encountered Duane Michals for the first time at Arles last year. For me, he was the absolute highlight of the week. He was so alive, had so much energy, that he eclipsed all other speakers combined. Completely uninhibited, he even howled at the full moon!

    One of my favorite pieces of advice he offered:
    “You are either defined by the medium or you re-define the medium based on your own needs.”

  4. Carrie said, on May 5, 2010 at 7:00 am

    “Real Dreams” was my first major influence as well. Duane came to speak to one of my photo classes and NYU and I was smitten, photographically and mentally. The next time I was in A Photographer’s Place, I asked for a copy of “Real Dreams” and was put on a waiting list (a spiral binder they kept behind the counter) for the out-of-print book. A few months later I got the call that they had a copy in good condition for $80 – a huge amount to me as an undergrad in the late 80s. But I bought it. And I still treasure it and him. I just recently bought “The House I Once Called Home” and am enjoying that.

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