|Type of Research:||Article|
|Group or Collective Creators:||The Guardian|
'I wanted to show the dignity of squatter life'
... Tom Hunter's Woman Reading a Possession Order. Photograph: V&A Images/Tom Hunter
'I was living in Hackney in London, in a whole street of squats, having spent two years travelling around Europe in a doubledecker bus. Everyone got a letter addressed to "persons unknown". The council wanted to knock down the street and build warehouses. The Tories had brought in the Criminal Justice Act, which was designed to stop parties. Every time you saw a picture of a squatter or a traveller, it was to go with a story about how antisocial they were. I just wanted to take a picture showing the dignity of squatter life – a piece of propaganda to save my neighbourhood.
I took this in 1997, for my master's degree show at the Royal College of Art. The 17th-century golden age of Dutch painting had had a massive impact on me: the way they dealt with ordinary people, not kings, queens and generals. I thought if I could borrow their style for squatters and travellers, it would elevate their status. In this shot, inspired by Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, my next-door neighbour is reading the possession order.
Filipa had just had her first baby. We spent the whole day trying things out: we had a bowl of fruit, then we tried some curtains, then incorporated the baby. The light was perfect, a late winter sun coming through the window, really low, like the northern European light.
I used a large-format camera, which really captures that light. And I used the Supachrome process to print it – old-fashioned even then. The exposure was about a second, so it was like sitting for a painting: she had to stand still. I was waiting for the light to pour into the lens, rather than snapping at something.
I phoned her up last week and she's still happy with the picture. It's a record of her, her child and her home at the time. The great thing is, the picture got a dialogue going with the council – and we managed to save the houses.'
Born: Dorset, 1965.
Studied: London College of Printing.
Influences: "Painters inspire me most – Caravaggio, Vermeer – but I also like Dorothea Lange and Sally Mann."
High point: "Graduating from the RCA. I never thought I'd have an A-level, let alone an MA."
Top tip: "Find something that drives you on. Being threatened with eviction was a real spur for me."
|Your affiliations with UAL:||Colleges > London College of Communication
Research Centres/Networks > Photography & the Archive Research Centre (PARC)
|Date:||4 November 2009|
|Copyright Holders:||Tom Hunter, The Guardian|
|Projects or Series:||Research Outputs Review (April 2010 - April 2011), Persons Unknown|
|Date Deposited:||02 Nov 2011 14:59|
|Last Modified:||21 Mar 2012 11:16|
Repository Staff Only: item control page