People with a Purpose - Hunter Gawne
SEED People’s Market is a curation of like-minded humans from all walks of life - Makers, planters, hikers, climbers, and wanderers to name a few. Together, we’re committed to educate sustainability, elevate community, and encourage diversity. People with a Purpose is a celebration of this - Highlighting members of our community, and sharing each story and purpose.
Today, we are celebrating freelance photographer, storyteller, and a familiar face, Hunter Gawne. After a friendly convo outside of our marketplace, it was clear that Hunter was a true embodiment of the young creator community; His energy and engagement, charm and craft, dedication and drive, passion and purpose.
"I couldn’t see myself doing anything else."
Hunter, welcome back to SEED People’s Market. Your work is greatly admired by our team, as well as the hub of artists right here in Costa Mesa. A simple, yet necessary thing to ask; When did you start taking photos?
I started shooting photos during my freshman year of high school. I needed an art credit to graduate and I thought of grabbing a camera, cruising through it, and earning that credit.
And back then, I didn’t have many passions outside of running; I was a runner for twelve years. All I wanted to do at that time was run. I liked art, but it wasn’t a passion at the time.
However, I managed to take that class as a freshman. And project after project, I knew how much I was beginning to love photography. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. The moment it all took off was when my teacher pulled me aside during my junior year and said, “You know, you can do this for a living?”
"That was another big catalyst that helped me fully commit to photography."
Knowing what to do after graduating high school can be rather difficult and incredibly daunting. Was photography a clear path for you career-wise after hearing your teacher's advice?
Pretty much! I didn’t like school very much and I struggled in most classes. I didn’t want to go to college and even if I did, I would go primarily for running. I had the original plan to run Division 1 cross country and track with the University of Oregon. Unfortunately, some injuries put me away from that goal.
So if running wasn’t going to turn into a career, what was it going to be? I had the other idea to become a forest firefighter because I love nature, going outside, and getting dirty. I looked at a few other things but the reality was that I did not know what I wanted to do.
It was the moment that I picked up the camera and got wisdom from my teacher that I knew what path to follow. And luckily, I had a great support system with my family as they encouraged me to jump fully into it and be the best that I can be. That was another big catalyst that helped me fully commit to photography.
"It was through running that created my deep love for nature."
Looking through your portfolio, you seemingly have a great relationship with the outdoors. Can you talk more about your love for nature?
My relationship with the outdoors started when I was seven or eight years old as I began trail running. I ran so many different trails and running became this whole new outlet. It was through running that created my deep love for nature. Every weekend, if I wasn’t at a race, I would go catch frogs, snakes, and lizards in the creek or swim in the lake. I loved anything that involved getting dirty. That’s what I did for fun growing up and having these experiences helped grow my love even more.
Years later as I was taking that photography class, my first assignment was to go outside and take photos of nature, and my camera roll ended up being over a thousand shots. Sure, only a few dozen ended up being the final products, but it was all worth it being able to embrace the sunlight, the water, the trees, and everything nature has to offer.
It all started with running and soon grew with photography.
"And that’s just to name a few..."
Tough question! Which artists have motivated you the most with photography?
One of my biggest inspirations in photography is Samuel Elkins, as well as my two buddies, Jared Chambers and Nicholas Maggio. There’s also Peter Larson from back home in Ohio that has become a friend over the years and has given me creative advice. And that’s just to name a few as there are hundreds upon hundreds of talented photographers.
"Heck, sometimes I achieve a shot by accident."
Do you set any personal goals when you go out and shoot?
I attempt to try something completely new in each shoot. That could be shooting at a different angle or creating a new shade of color, whatever it may be, it tends to be random on the day of the shoot. Heck, sometimes I achieve a shot by accident. So whether I’m shooting for a campaign or traveling on a surf trip or I’m up in the mountains, I’ll try to shoot something new.
"That’s hard to come across nowadays in the client-based photo space."
Let's talk brands! Is there a team that you’ve enjoyed working with the most?
I’ve had the pleasure to work with Fat Tire and their amazing team. The best thing about working with them is that they give me full creative freedom and they trust my vision. That’s hard to come across nowadays in the client-based photo space. And thankfully, Fat Tire and New Belgium Brewing have loved everything that I’ve done.
I’ve also had great shoots with The James Brand, Jaxxon, and other really cool brands.
"That camera was just fantastic."
I'm sure that we can talk about this for hours; Camera gear. Who’s your trusty steed when it comes to cameras?
That question depends if I’m shooting digital or film! I was doing a bunch of digital stuff with the Fujifilm GFX 100S for a while which is part of their digital medium format series. That camera was just fantastic. Super sharp, dynamic range, and great colors. It just wasn’t the fastest camera out there, so I eventually started using my Canon 5D Mark IV more than the 100S which has been awesome. As far as film goes, probably my Pentax 645 or Pentax 67II if we’re talking medium format. When it comes to 35mm, I like to use point-and-shoots a lot.
"I get to be a bit more selective with what I’m shooting."
Speaking of film, it is often more time-consuming but highly rewarding. Can you discuss your experience shooting film?
I love film because I get to be a bit more selective with what I’m shooting. Each stock has different colors and tonality to it. I’ve just fallen in love with the way that light recasts to film rather than digital. Film has its downsides for sure though; The rising prices I’ve experienced over the past few years are definitely a headache not to mention when your cameras break. If you shoot film long enough, you probably know that film cameras come and go; They’re old tools and can be finicky, you know? I’ve found it’s best to buy film cameras from Japan; That’s where they’re all made in the first place and there are so many dealers over there!
"not getting caught up in the personal aspect of things."
It’s common for artists to get lost in the hole of comparison. Have you fallen into this and if so, how do you get out of it?
I believe that there’s a fine line between inspiration and comparison. As much as I enjoy social media and how it’s propelled my career, I tend to find myself comparing myself to other great artists, even those I may have mentioned before. There have been countless times where I've considered deleting the app. So, I’ve preferred looking at photo books and magazines, and it’s a different experience seeing somebody else’s work, but not getting caught up in the personal aspect of things.
"this is what I was meant to do and I love this too much.”
How do you stay creatively motivated with photography?
I can’t say I haven’t gone through creative ruts in my work. They suck and you sometimes think that there’s no way out of it. But I stay motivated through personal projects; Getting off of social media and just going out to shoot for fun. And for the moments that I’ve considered putting the camera down and quitting, I say, “No, this is what I was meant to do and I love this too much.”
"every story is worth being told."
The art of storytelling is so important in photography. Do you agree?
Absolutely. Everybody has a story and every story is worth being told. Everybody has different life experiences making everyone unique in their own way. From traveling all over the world to simply driving around, I admire the people I come across and want to listen to their stories. You can see it through their eyes that they have something to tell.
And through my photos, I want to capture these stories and make others feel a part of it.
"there’s plenty of surfing, camping, hiking, and of course, shooting photos."
With or without the camera, what does an average weekday look like?
On weekdays, I’m pretty wrapped up in emails and phone calls, but I will manage to sneak in a quick run or surf or two (I try to surf every day). Especially if the surf is good, you can catch me at 54th or 56th Street in Newport Beach or the many gems in San Clemente or even up in Ventura; I’d say that’s the spot I like surf the most if time allows.
Let’s hear about your weekends.
On the weekends, there’s plenty of surfing, camping, hiking, and of course, shooting photos. I also love hanging out with my friends after church, spending time with my girlfriend, and going on road trips.
"That cold water surfing was the beginning of my love for that area, and surfing as a whole."
We love a good road trip. What’s your favorite travel destination here in the United States?
Washington is pretty epic! That whole state is so versatile from the coastline to the mountains. I fell in love with the PNW when I was first living and surfing up in Oregon. That cold water surfing was the beginning of my love for that area, and surfing as a whole.
Let’s travel abroad here. What’s your favorite spot outside of the U.S.?
That’s such a tough question! I recently came back from Cape Town, South Africa. Australia is like a second home to me as I lived there a few years ago for a mission program. Besides that, India and New Zealand are both nuts. If you were to ask me what’s my go-to place to document people, no doubt it would be India. If I were to choose a destination to shoot landscape, that would be New Zealand.
"I definitely plan on sticking around."
Do you see yourself staying in Costa Mesa for the foreseeable future?
I think so! I first came to Costa Mesa after returning from Australia and I originally didn’t know what to do or where to go. However; thanks to prayer and God leading the way, I knew that this is where I needed to be. It’s been epic here in Costa Mesa. The place is perfect as it’s right between Los Angeles and San Diego. I’m also able to catch quick flights to Hawaii, Oregon, or wherever I need to be when traveling for work. Not to mention, the great surf here. I definitely plan on sticking around!
"And I’ve been coming ever since."
And you're always welcome here at SEED People's Market. What are your thoughts on our marketplace?
SEED was one of the first spots I visited when I started living here. The marketplace is so unique and it was the architecture that first drew me. Once I went inside, there was Patagonia, Rhythm, and all of these great brands I already knew and loved. And I’ve been coming ever since!
"be a light to others, whomever I’m in front of."
We would like to conclude our amazing discussion with a question we’d like to ask everyone - What do you believe is your purpose in life?
I believe that my purpose here on Earth is to be a light to others, whoever I’m in front of. God has helped me become that through photography and creating things for others to see. I’ve been able to encounter such great people and tell their stories, as well as my own.
WRITER & EDITOR