Portia Hunt is a fashion photographer and student, studying at the University of Leeds. She’s worked for SICKY Magazine, and covered backstage fashion weeks in London and Paris for V, VMAN, Hunger, Purple and HERO. With selected clients such as Sibling London and Vivienne Westwood, she’s not exactly your average student. Here, SUBCULTURED ask her about her interest in photography, and balancing this work with her degree.
When did you first develop an interest in fashion photography?
To be honest, it wasn’t until I was unexpectedly catapulted into the midst of SS15 backstage madness that my interest in fashion photography found its footing. Before that, my photographic endeavours were people-orientated, but ranged from documenting local band nights to experimenting with self portraits; and occasionally I would muster up the courage to ask friends and acquaintances to model for me. However, perhaps it was somewhat inevitable that my photographs would become fashionably inclined, as I am intrigued and keen to experiment with the way in which clothes can be used to express different personas.
How did your interest progress from being a hobby to having work published online?
To quote a friend who suddenly found himself walking for Moschino: serendipitous circumstances. I was in London for few days during fashion week SS15 trying my hand at shooting street style – because where better to have such a collective of willing subjects to practise on! By chance I got chatting to a backstage photographer who allowed me to assist him for a couple of shows. I managed to grab a few shots of my own, and later sent them to a few magazines asking if they required a photographer for next season. V magazine replied within a few hours, and the whirlwind of new experiences, new friendships, and lots of hastened trial-and-error learning progressed from there!
A Natural Sciences degree is quite different to fashion photography; what made you choose an academic degree over a creative one?
I have always been interested in the sciences: in particular, trying to understand the processes that enable our bodies to function and interact with the environment around us. To me, it was only natural that I would pursue an academic degree in order to broaden my scientific knowledge, and to keep my interest in photography and the arts as a creative outlet to escape to from my more academic studies. I also don’t like being told what to do, creatively speaking. I like to work when the mood or the inspiration strikes. I’m scared that I’d end up hating photography if I was doing it non-stop.
How do you balance your academic degree with your fashion photography pursuits (photographing shows, editing, Instagram-ing, etc.)?
Balancing the two contrasting parts of my life requires a fair bit of organisation and good time management. I’m lucky to have tutors at university who are genuinely interested in my photography work and are keen for me to continue to pursue it – but at the same time, I’ve had to show that I’m equally hardworking towards my degree. Sometimes that means foregoing nights out in order to get assignments finished or just to catch up on sleep, and I hit the library at any spare moment I have during the day so I can be as productive with my time as possible.
Tips for breaking into fashion photography?
I am a great believer in that you make your own luck. Breaking into the creative industry notoriously requires an element of good fortune, but equally it requires making the most of the opportunities that arise. Be friendly, speak to people, be interested in what they do, assist other photographers, do favours, work hard, be prepared to work unconventional hours, utilise social media to your advantage – Instagram is a powerful thing!
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
The dreaded question! I know that I want to pursue a career in the sciences – I am particularly interested in the science of food and allergies – and to be able to continue with freelance photography work alongside. However, the last twelve months have taught me that life can be incredibly unpredictable. So for now, I am mostly living for the moment, working hard and acting on each and every opportunity as it comes.
Find Portia at:
Text by Rebecca Cofie, polaroid (of Portia) by Max Barnett, digital photography by Portia Hunt