More than a photographer, filmmaker, and model, Owen ‘OD’ Hunte has many creative talents that combine and overlap to make him the artist he has become. Read about his journey and learn from his multidisciplinary perspective!
Reading your profile feels like the gift that keeps on giving. From music production to photography and videography, from commercial modeling to app development, all from a modern acoustics degree to fine arts. Can you tell us a bit about the path that you walked that touched all these fields?
Thank you. Well it’s a long meandering path to where I am today. I came to the UK 34 years ago when I was doing my A levels. At that time I was an artist doing paintings and drawings and was just getting into music writing and production. I wanted to do the only music producer’s course in the country at the time but I didn’t read music or have grades so I couldn’t but the university I went to check out said I could do a Physics with modern acoustics Degree so I went for that. Little did I know the university only wanted my foreign student fees.
While at university I made friends with a couple guys from the course and one of them gave me a DAT (Digital Audio Tape) of a 24-track master by one of my idol producers and from that I analyzed that track and then spent the summer making beats. I eventually did a beats DAT which I got reviewed in a national magazine and got a call from the UK’s biggest sample CD producer to release the sample material. He wanted me to manufacture the CDs myself and he would distribute but I didn’t have the funds so I approached the second biggest guy in the UK and was able to strike up a deal with him. That was my first successful commercial venture. From that I was introduced to two guys who started Extreme Music (now owned by Sony ATV) and did an album and 4 tracks for them. This was my second commercial venture.
Fast forward several years and I was working full-time as a maintenance engineer for a post-production house in London up until 2001 when I was made redundant and then went about trying to make it as an independent music producer. In 2008 I had an operation planned and because I knew that was coming I created my own weight-loss plan and lost 30kgs. During that time I got into fitness and when the first iPhone was released I got the idea to develop an iPhone interval training app which I did. That lead me to develop a kids game called Gorilla Monkey Crunch (Lite) which ended up being a number one kids game in 11 countries.
Meanwhile, I invested and commissioned a photographer to take some photos of me which I shared on Facebook. Someone suggested I send them to an agency which I did randomly not knowing anything or anyone and one agency accepted me. I thought ‘well, hell if one will take me on, might as well try some more”, and now I have over 10 agents. So I began my modelling / acting career doing commercial shoots but slowly started getting into stock video as can actor. I stopped shooting stock for others after a few years because I wanted to only have my image available as stock in my own libraries.
Having worked across all these different fields, do you feel they all require different ways of working and thinking, or is there more overlap than one might think?
I wouldn’t say there’s specific overlap in the different fields that I’ve worked in but I would say that I’ve acquired a plethora of skills over my career which have all added to my transferable skills set. Also with experience comes the skill of problem-solving which of course is useful in any field you work in.
To build on the previous question, we’re always excited to hear when an artist also has experience modeling. How do you feel understanding both sides of the lens influences your work and how you work when directing others?
Being on both sides of the camera does give me an advantage I feel in several aspects. From the side of being a commercial model, I’ve shot for some of the biggest brands in the UK and globally which has lots of positive implications. For example, I’m shooting with some of the best production crews in the world so I see how the “big boys” make commercials and so I’m taking mental notes and sometimes behind-the-scenes photos too while on set when they are setting up. And I’m constantly thinking ‘are there things I can use to improve my shoots from this?’ Whether it’s equipment or camera movement or lighting or attention to detail.
And speaking of attention to detail, that’s something I think I’ve learned a lot from my commercial shoots. There are so many creatives involved in the slightest of details, it’s made me aware of many more things while I shoot, although I still sometimes miss stuff. (facepalm). Also I have to deliver for clients and have been while being directed by some of the best directors from around the world so again that’s a positive experience in terms of making me a better actor and director when I need to direct talent I’m shooting or to self shoot. I make a point of trying to use new talent so it’s important to be able to give them effective guidance.
What drove you to start creating video content, and how did you roll into the world of stock and eventually at Stocksy?
I started shooting video after I got into photography about 20 years ago more seriously when my first son came along. DSLRs were becoming more popular for video and I loved the ability to shoot on these. I invested as I wanted to be able to shoot music videos for the artists I was producing although in the end I didn’t do many. Through my commercial modelling, I got into stock video as a model / actor with one of the most successful producers at the time. I learnt a lot from those years and also made a few friends from those days. I would ask about some of the process because I understood and was curious and he said I should shoot as well and to ‘start small’. So I did. I started shooting for a few libraries non-exclusively but then felt that I was spreading myself too thin and then started shooting exclusively for one library. While doing this I found out about Stocksy and uploaded a few clips. I had 2200 or so clips on that site and 279 on Stocksy and one month I made more on Stocksy and I said, “this doesn’t make sense. I need to focus on Stocksy” and I’ve never looked back since. I absolutely love the image manager backend, the entire workflow, the real-time reporting and the swift monthly payment. Not to mention the positive vibe of the co-op.
Having built a former number 1 free kids game seems — not knowing the topic of the app — like the one that might be the least related to the others. Can you tell us a bit about what inspired you to create an app for kids?
Well coming up with the kids game was almost a whim! The idea came to me suddenly and I just developed it until I had a blue print and then found the contractors to build it. I come up with ideas for things when I’m involved in different industries, which I guess many people do, but I try to find a way to finish them. In this case I came up with this all-ages arcade-style game called Gorilla Monkey Crunch which ended up doing well but sadly not ‘Angry Birds’ well. It was the second app I developed, the first one being ITGO – Interval Trainer Go which was Apple’s new and Noteworthy app as well as being featured in the FT.com, Men’s running, and other publications. I essentially came up with the ideas and got programmers and artists to finish my ideas into a commercial products. A bit like what I’m doing at the moment with SmallRig for video production hardware where I’m designing the 2D drawings, then getting a CAD engineer to create the 3D files and then presenting those to the manufacturer to co-design and develop.
Are there any other fields that inspire you and you would like to branch out into the future?
Oh yes there are several! I’ve always wanted to get into property. So far it’s only been intellectual property but that’s fine as my life plan revolves around passive income which goes well with IP. When I was 16 I wanted to become an architect but the 7 years of training at 16 seemed long but obviously it’s not in context of a lengthy career. So I think I’d love to renovate houses and flip them or build new ones to sell. I’d also like to have a Trinidadian restaurant or street food business in the UK at some point. But let’s see how things progress and how life goes. Like I said I’ve just started developing hardware products for video so I’ll have to see where that venture leads me. Oh yeah, and I would like to develop a new dating app which was not only more ethical but would get rid of all the incredibly annoying things that people do like post profile pics with shades, multiple people and very old pics that aren’t current.. ha.
How do you look back on the past, and do you have any goals for the future?
Yes, my goal is to double my catalog in terms of artists and then to expand the topics and subjects that I have covered. I also plan to buy and custom build a gimbal/ Steadicam system so that I can add more movement to my catalogue. But over all it’s to improve my craft as a contributor so that I can add real value to the catalogue and become more profitable. I don’t know where I am in the scheme of profit ranking in Stocksy but I’d like to get up into the upper echelons of those rankings (as would everyone else I know) and am prepared to put in the work and investment to hopefully get there. But I know I can only do that by diversifying further while adding quality content and ultimately giving clients what they need so I will continue to research, plan, shoot, upload and repeat.
What is your motivation/driving force to create the work you create?
There are several I’d say. I’m very passionate about trying to represent people of colour in stock in a better way through my work. Stocksy as a library is making great strides with this and I would like to continue to contribute in my own way. Second is financial because it’s part of my living and my plan for setting up parallel residual income streams. Thirdly I’d say my love for the actual entire process, craft and business. I mean I actually love doing what I do for Stocksy.
If you could execute any idea — with no budget restraints or logistical limits — what would it be?
Juicy question! I think I would hire a production team and shoot several James Bond / Bourne style sequences in an airport, on a plane and in an airplane hanger and just create some assets that utilised 100s of extras and used locations that would normally be out of my budget. I would of course shoot all of this on my favourite lenses the Panavision T-Series Anamorphics on the Arri Alexa flown on the Arri Trinity, if appropriate.
Do you have any hidden talents besides creating your wonderful work?
Oh thank you for your kind comments. I was a fine artist many years ago painting oil on canvas board with palette knife and have had a solo exhibition at university, I play table tennis to an OK standard and was in the British table tennis league before Covid hit. I’m an ex-music producer as I mentioned so I play keyboards and guitar and used to play bass guitar. I used to sing and rap. I guess there’s a few more things but those are the main ones.
How do you make sure that your work still stays enjoyable and that you don’t burn out on creating new content?
I read the Stocksy contributor briefs and also do my own research. I look for holes in stock Libraries but also specifically on Stocksy as well. I look to see what I can execute or execute in a different or perhaps better way than what’s there already. I also take mental notes and sometimes photos of adverts I see around London.
What is the one bit of advice you wish you had known from the start?
I think it’s important to find and establish your own niche and creative voice and I wish that I’d started shooting in my niche from the start. But I do think it takes a while to decide what really works and works for you.
Is there something that you can not go without while creating new work? And why is this so important?
Well assuming we’re not talking about the camera (ha) I would say the gimbal. I shoot everything on the gimbal because I love what I call the “floating camera”. I’m not a fan of hand held or shaky footage but rather that snakelike smooth motion you get in cinema. You have a lot of control and so that’s what I use the gimbal for. I’m still perfecting and expanding my movement vocabulary as I get better as a camera person but also as I build and develop more custom rigs and grip set ups.
Do you have any advice for photographers just starting out?
I would give the same advice I got, “start small” and just build your library and hone your craft. Listen to advice and don’t be afraid to ask for support because Stocksy is a a remarkable library especially when it comes to support.