Issue Twenty Eight

THE ABSENT HUNTER

Matt Hunter's View

WORDS x Danielle Baker
PHOTOS x Danielle Baker & Matt Hunter

27 November 2017
Part One

Intro

Scrolling through my Instagram feed, Matt Hunter’s images clearly stand out. Not necessarily for what is in them, but more for what is absent. Many of his photos are of beautiful winding singletrack; flowy lines crisply edged with green, weaving through forests and open meadows. They are the kind of trail experience that everyone can get excited about. What’s missing in these photos however, is the rider – Matt, or anyone else for that matter. Matt recalls being inspired by a poster he saw years ago of an empty wave in a restaurant bathroom. “I thought it was so cool. The absence of a surfer left the interpretation up to viewer and their imagination.”

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Part Two

Imagination

Matt isn’t what you would call a natural when it comes to social media, but he participates in it because he knows it’s an important part of his career. But even with Instagram, there is an authenticity in everything that Matt posts that stems from his genuine enthusiasm to share things about his life that get other people inspired. You won’t find an endless stream of selfies or product shots on his account. Instead you’ll find images of his life, family, friends, things he is interested in, and plenty of empty trail shots to let your imagination run wild. “I’m not drawn to seeing only bike shots all the time and these open trail photos that I post are about the place, not about me and my stuff.”

It’s important to Matt that he captures scenes that everyone can place themselves in, scenes that are inclusive, rather than posting images of big airs only a handful of people can hit or other equally exclusive scenes. As his career has allowed him to travel he has found that sharing photos of carefully crafted singletrack wherever he goes has allowed him to really engage with those who follow him and he notes that, “It is nice to be able to show their beauty to people who understand and can place themselves there. To people who can imagine it.”

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Part Three

Against The Grain

Matt has made collaborating on media production the bulk of his work and over the last 14 years of his career he has learned a lot about what people enjoy watching and how he can create it. “In my Trail Hunter videos I use that same concept of my empty trail photos. I want everything to look achievable for my audience so that they can put themselves there, right in it.” This simple but effective concept has been the signature for most of Matt’s projects. “What do mountain bikers actually want to do? They want to go on road trips with their buddies and they want to ride trails that are fun. I am interested in getting people excited by what I create because they can see themselves there.”

In all that Matt produces for content, his motivation is driven by his own want for the experience. He pursues the ideas that allow him to create and share images and edits that evoke the feeling that he gets from riding bikes. That pure joy that is untethered from the expectations of career or responsibilities – just the simplicity of happiness that comes from flowing through incredible ripping singletrack. “When you’re doing things that you love, it seems to flow. I’ve been on trips that I didn’t want to be on, and the content reflects that. I don’t know at what point that comes through in photos and videos and even in the story, but it does somehow.” Learning from these past experiences, Matt has stayed true to showing the world what he loves and is passionate about – even if it goes against the grain of mainstream media.

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Part Four

The Wave

Looking at these pared down images that he posts to Instagram there is no nod to any products nor to his superhuman abilities on a bike. He has taken himself out of the equation leaving us with the beauty of an open trail that can take you anywhere, as long as you can imagine it. Without the interruption of a subject the viewer is free to be the subject, enjoying the flow of a perfectly crafted trail. This feeling is exaggerated by the way he edits the photos to mimic the way the trails looks when you’re riding – putting the viewer directly behind the bars. It’s not by chance that Matt shares these kinds of images; both the evolution of his career and his instinctive creativity have led to this simplistic yet powerful approach to social media.

“It goes back to that wave shot that first inspired me. I get excited when I see an empty wave photo – even though it’s not immediately in front of me – I know what it would feel like to drop into it. I hope that is what people are thinking when they are viewing the empty trail shots that I take. I hope they have a similar experience.”

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The End
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