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Kim Reed with Tom Hutchins in Wellington
“In March of this year, I had the pleasure of working with Tom Hutchins as his assistant. Having recently moved to New Zealand, five months prior, from Chicago, where I was studying photojournalism, the thought of working alongside someone of Tom’s calibre and experience was an exciting opportunity.
Tom has a long working relationship with Black Star, a New York photo agency. In March, he was given an assignment to photograph a financial adviser for the American corporation Capital Investment & Management Group - the second largest investor in Telecom.
Capital was creating a brochure of all their companies in various locations throughout the world and wanted a photograph of their financial adviser with a Telecom employee in Wellington, along with various scenic shots of the city. It sounds easy enough - but there was much involved on Tom’s part - constant communication between the Los Angeles office and Telecom in Wellington, coordinating the location, time, and essential details.
Having worked for various photographers in Chicago, I had a basic idea of what was expected. But what pleasantly surprised me about working with Tom, was his dedicated attention to detail weeks prior to the assignment.
We had one day to do it all and began by flying out of Auckland at 7 am. As our plane descended into Wellington, the stewardess announced that the person in seat 16A had won a mystery weekend trip from Air New Zealand. I looked at my seat number and looked at Tom, and we both laughed as we realised that I was the winner. The only reason I was sitting in 16A was because Tom wanted me to view the wonderful scenery, and we had swapped seats before the flight so I would have the window seat. I saw it as a lucky sign that we would have a good day with little complication.
Mother Nature was kind, and as usual did not listen to what the forecasters had predicted, giving us a beautiful clear day. We headed off in our rental car to the Botanical Gardens, where Tom photographed the cable car and panoramic views of the city.
Tom’s aim was to have a Telecom “presence” reflected on film and attempted to include the Telecom building with the satellite dish on top in many of the photographs he took. He even went through great pains to get the best view of the Telecom building by talking security guards of the various skyscrapers surrounding it to let us on top of their roofs. Several of the guards thought the request a bit odd, but after sizing us up figured we looked harmless and agreed.
Later that afternoon, we met with the marketing people of Telecom who Tom had made the arrangements with, and with our subject. Everything seemed fine, until we went to the area that was designated: a Telecom manhole in the footpath, with a Telecom van and the Beehive in the background. It seemed easy enough. But what we didn’t anticipate was the metal safety frame around the manhole to protect pedestrians from falling in, and the lamp pole directly behind the scene that just could not be eliminated.
Tom’s challenge was to make this scene into the picture that the art designer in Los Angeles envisioned; that of an executive of Capital Investment who just happened to drop by and chat to a Telecom employee in a manhole. You know, those set up shots that look great in brochures but no one ever sees in real life.
Tom was relentless, working every possible angle to try to eliminate, as much as he could, the distraction of the bars on the frame from the faces of the two men. We were lucky that the men, who had never met before, were able to think of enough topics to talk about so that the scene looked as if they were actually having a conversation.
After almost two hours, we were done. Daylight was fading and so was my energy. I expected Tom to feel the same - but no. After we packed up all the gear, he raced up to another area to try to capture the sunset over the city.
I didn’t win another mystery weekend on the return flight, but I gained an invaluable experience that day, watching the way Tom worked with his camera and with people. His endless energy and drive did produce the image Capital Investment wanted, but it was his humble and gentle nature that made those he photographed comfortable enough, which created the right emotion”.