Do you think your gig shots with Valencia and Inkwell filters have what it takes? Got a keen eye and a few hundy to spend on lens with more grunt than an iPhone? Dive into the depths of photography with passion and you could just rise up on top with a cheeky $20,000 and a shiny new book for the studio desk! Michelle Grace Hunder has done just that. With the recent success of Hunder’s Pozible crowd funding campaign to fund the production of her Australian Hip Hop portrait book, “RISE”, we find out from Hunder just how she went from taking a holiday snap to becoming a well known rapper pap(arazzi).

How long have you been shooting for? Was it a case of being forced to do it as a school subject and falling in love with it? Or more a fascination with pictures and wanting to create your own?

I’ve only been shooting just under four years. I was given a camera for Christmas by my husband Jarvis, he thought it might be cool to take some nice pics when we went on holidays. Never ever thought it would turn into what is has, and in such a short space of time.

Ive worked in creative fields before (events/ film and TV for a while) but always in coordination and logistics. I had never thought of doing anything quite so creative, but once I started, I kind got hooked pretty quickly. It’s the most enjoyable job in the world.

What setup are you using these days? From camera through to editing, I’m sure there are a bunch of fans who would love to know how you create your end results.

I have two Nikon D700’s and generally I use a fixed 35 f/2 for the majority of my gigs. For larger gigs I’ll take my 70-200 on my 2nd body.

I use Lightroom to edit my pics. I generally push my live shots quite a bit, I like super contrasty shots, which I think has kind of become my ‘thing’ I guess! I don’t want my live shots to look like anyone else shooting that gig, and I spend a bit of time trying to differentiate the look of my live gig shots.

Portraits are a little different. I shoot on location for 99% of my shoots, natural light for almost everything. I generally shoot unplanned. I like wandering around and finding nice pockets of light or textures to shoot against. Its different than many photographers to work like this but seems to work for me.

With a digital age that we now live in, where you can snap a picture on your phone on the other side of the world, use free wifi and have your whole family and friend base see it within minutes I’d say that photography is now more popular than ever. How does this effect you as an artist as someone who is trying to get their own work out and noticed by the masses? Do you think programs like instagram and the like help or harm what you do?

Definitely help. I talk about this a lot. The reason I have been able to become relatively well known in the scene quite quickly is because of twitter/facebook/IG. I have direct access to artists to show them my work after a gig etc. Its definitely helped my brand and getting known.

Where did your love of hip hop come from? Do you remember a particular track or album that had you hooked? Was it then a natural progression to intertwine your art with the sounds you love? How do you go from being the person at gigs with a camera – assuming you were – to working on flicks with the scenes biggest names?

Yeah, I was given a tape of Hip Hop tracks when I was about 12 than had a bunch of west coast hip hop, mainly Snoop, Dre, and Tupac. It started a really serious lifelong passion for Hip Hop. I was so serious about the East/West coast rivalry that I didn’t listen to East Coast rap until about 2005, I kid you not. Hahahaha

I would say Snoop’s Doggystyle was the album that got me hooked and Tupac’s album Me against the World sealed it.

How did you get involved in the Australian Hip Hop scene?

I originally got involved in the Hip Hop scene shooting gigs for friends like Briggs and other local rappers that I knew. I found that I really enjoyed shooting gigs, so I just started getting in contact with artists via twitter mainly,  and asking if I could shoot their gigs. The scene in Melbourne isn’t huge so I got to know people really quickly and now have some really solid friendships.

Tell us about Rise, when did you decide you wanted to work on a book? How hard is the logistics of pulling something like that together? From approaching artists, to choosing images, to getting the damn thing all pretty and in a book..

I has started a portrait series on Melbourne artist around 2 years ago, I really wanted to work on my portraiture and wanted to focus on this for around a year. After I shot with Grey Ghost and Mantra, we had a discussion about my intentions for the body of work after I finished. At the time I thought perhaps an exhibition. They suggested perhaps doing a book, and extending it to all of Australia. Which was really daunting at first, but I kinda thought it would be a really good solid project to work on and literally threw myself into it.

Logistically I’ve had the help of Nate Flagrant help me get in contact with a number of artists and bounce ideas from a business perspective, which has been amazing.

Word kind of spread pretty quickly, and everyone has been really keen to get on board. The hardest thing is trying to coordinate times with everyone’s busy schedules, but I’m getting though it!!

Choosing images is usually pretty easy to be honest. There are always a few standouts, and I like to consult the artist as well so it’s a really organic process and everyone is happy with the final image chosen.

The design and layout for the book will be done by Grey Ghost, and once I finish shooting we will sit down and start that process, which I am super excited about.

Choosing the images might be easy, but what has been the process behind choosing who to feature in the book? 

Originally it was artists I had worked with or wanted to work with in the future. I put together a list of artists I’d heard of and wanted to shoot, and it kind of extended out from there as my knowledge of the scene grew. I have a few consultants on the project who I bounce suggestions off, and came up with a solid list I was happy with. Its obviously really difficult to shoot every single artist in the county as we have so many, but I’m really comfortable with the artists I’ve worked with so far and/or will be working with for this project as being a pretty comprehensive snap shot of the Australian Scene.

You went with a Pozible campaign, which has reached it’s total, congratulations, to fund the book, what saw you look to crowd funding rather than a publishing house? Do you think the unity of the Australian hip hop scene made this an easier process with funding?

I had seen a few other photographers self publish and spoke to them about the process. I think I always had a gut feeling I’d like to retain full control. I wasn’t aware of just how expensive it is to do this though! I totally freaked out and thought it wouldn’t’ happen! But when I became aware of Pozible and saw a few friends do quite well through this process, I thought I’d give it a crack.

I was initially pretty nervous, it’s massively nerve wracking, but from the first day – I think we had $1000 pledged the first hour, I was totally blown away by the incredible support of the hip hop community. Everyone has been incredibly generous and really positive and supportive. A HUGE part of this was the artists sharing the campaign via their socials. Made such a huge difference. I’ll be forever grateful to each and every person who contributed or shared the campaign.

What have been some of your favourite shoots, be it with musicians or otherwise what are some of the best places to shoot and people to work with?

I really get so much out of every shoot. I love working with musicians, I seem to connect really well with them and I have heaps of fun on my shoots. Its hard to pick favourite shoots! I think my shoot with Grey Ghost and Mantra will always be a favourite because it kind of lead to this whole project. Also my shoot with Daniel Merriweather, as I am a huge fan and I didn’t think he would say yes, so that was cool! Also my campaign shoots with New Balance, New Era (M-Phazes and Ta-Ku) and shoots for Zoo York Women are stand outs. 
Finally the shoot for Cleo where I met my beautiful best friend Cherie, will always be super special!!
Best places? Anywhere! I seriously find dope places to shoot wherever I am. I don’t have favourite locations, I like to make wherever I am work.

The million dollar question, now that the funding is there when can we expect the book to hit shelves?

I’m aiming for March 2014. Providing I can get everyone remaining in my list with their schedules, it should be pretty close to then. Definitely first half of 2014.