by Callie Enlow
A final photo from Rick Hunter's Facebook page
We at the Current are terribly saddened to hear of the passing of photographer Rick Hunter yesterday. According to his own Facebook page, Hunter had been hospitalized for pneumonia off and on for the past several weeks. Despite being hospitalized and convalescing in his "bunker," Hunter continued to share his photographs and cheerily comment on the comings and goings of his favorite parts of Southtown, where he was long a fixture, to his thousands of social media followers.
Hunter was raised in Brownsville and was in the Army before becoming a photographer full-time in the late 1980s. He joined the Express-News staff in 1991 and worked there for a decade before taking his skills freelance. His award-winning photography married a photojournalist's eye for compelling subjects and an artist's appreciation for framing, color and constant innovation (though he never quite could ditch film completely for digital). Outside of his career at the newspaper, he's perhaps best known for his stunning work in Mexico. Hunter seemed determined to cover every inch and minute of life in the country, from hardworking vaqueros to small religious ceremonies to magnificent, crumbling buildings. An energetic hustler of his own work, his livelihood seemed to mix big, corporate projects (like the 50 prints of his decorating the fifth floor of Baptist Medical Center's downtown hospital, coincidentally where Hunter spent the last days of his life) and sporadic, individual print sales and small gallery shows where his work was usually priced way-too-cheap. Almost anyone who wanted one could have a Hunter photo, it seemed, and it often appeared like almost everyone did.
I can't even remember where I first met Hunter, but it was likely at LaTuna bar, once a stomping ground for the both of us. I could always kind of sense Rick before I saw him, he had a jumpy, boisterous energy that naturally drew attention, but never demanded it. He seemed to always be just getting back from Mexico, or preparing his next trip. In between those excursions, he would sometimes contribute photography to San Antonio Magazine while I worked there as assistant editor. Again, I could tell when Rick was in the office long before I saw him, as he would spend a while in the editor's office loudly, rapidly reminiscing about Brownsville, also the hometown of Rachel Benavidez, SAM's editor at the time. And he was almost always wearing an old school photographer's vest with God-knows-what stuffed into all those pockets. Man, what style.
For a better picture of Hunter, please read this pithy, insightful review of one of Hunter's photography shows in 2008, when, in a very Hunter move, he walked our then-arts editor Sarah Fisch through the exhibit himself, giving her a mini-biography of his wild life at the same time. Better to hear it from the horse's mouth than from me. But I'll leave you with Fisch's summation of Hunter's aesthetic: "precise, accomplished, and deeply humane."
One of Hunter's photos of a cemetery during Day of the Dead, Hunter's favorite time of the year.