Photographer inspired by Hackney Gazette headlines like “For Batter For Worse” brings out book

Renowned photographer and Hackney Gazette fan Tom Hunter - who has used the local rag as inspiration for much of his work - has finally published a book of the work he’s created over the last 25 years.

The Way Home tracks his collections from The Ghetto when he lived in a large squatting community around London Fields, to the first and only ever exhibition of photography held in the National Gallery, based on Hackney Gazette stories, which immortalised headlines like “Living in Hell” about a sofa-bound woman, and “For Batter For Worse” depicting a fight during a wedding on the Town Hall steps.

It also portrays more recent work like the series commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in which he bases the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the borough.

Pearly kings and queens became the royalty, Tropical Isles samba dancers turn into fairies, “lovers” are plucked from Mossbourne sixth form, and a stripper was thrown in for good measure to represent the exotic.

“It is this mixing of cultures, architectures, people and histories that has so captivated me and held me in the arms of Hackney,” says Tom in the introduction to his book.

“Every building has a thousand tales to tell and in this book I’ve tried to tell a few.”

Tom now teaches MA students at the London College of Communication in Elephant and Castle, but at the outset of his photography career he would scour the Gazette’s jumble sale listings to buy nick nacks he’d sell on at a stall in Brick Lane to fund his college studies.

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“Like Vermeer I have concentrated on my local area and in this book I’ve tried to show my journey home to where I live,” explained Tom.

“Although I have not repeated directly referencing Vermeer in my work since ‘Persons Unknown’ I have always tried to keep his art practice at the core of all my work.

“Whether I’m taking photographs of the residents of condemned tower blocks, shopkeepers, barmaids or the disenfranchised, this way of working has shaped nearly every photograph I have ever taken since this time.”

Tom is giving a talk and signing copies of his book at the Photographers Gallery, 16-18 Ramillies Street near Oxford Circus on Thursday November 8 from 6pm to 7pm.