Heather Elder Represents
Reps Journal

After 25 Years, Celebrating Photographer Emeritus Hunter Freeman

When I first arrived in San Francisco, newly married and so excited to finally be living in California, I was ready for anything.  I would sit in the back bedroom of our very small apartment that housed all the furniture that didn't fit in the rest of the apartment and work to find a job.

But I didn't care. It was 1995 and I had visions of working for Espirt or The Gap or Hal Riney or Goldberg Moser O'Neill.  I thought maybe I’d be a producer or an art buyer and was really excited that I had a chance to maybe change things up. I had been a rep for a photographer for a couple of years so I was curious as to my options.

Then I got the call. I don’t recall who it was, but an art producer (then called art buyer) called me and told me that Hunter Freeman was looking for a rep.  I remember saying, “Well, if I could rep Hunter Freeman, I would rep again”. He had the back spread on Workbook that year- that cool red car driving through the trees. I was hooked.

It was an easy interview because we hit it off right from the start. He was easy to talk to, open to ideas, friendly, kind, funny and of course creative. I left with my first SF client.  

Little did I know then I had met one of the single most influential person of my career.  The person who would set the tone for how I ran my business and the person from whom I would draw inspiration when I struggled.

I look back now on the 25 or so years I have known Hunter and I see a mentor, a creative inspiration, a savvy business person and a loving husband and father. Mostly though,  I see a friend. So, when he told us it was time to retire, I knew we could not just click the off button on our website.  We had to celebrate the man that gave so much to so many, make sure he knows how special he is and how important his lessons were.

So what did Hunter teach me?

1) The first thing I remember learning from Hunter was a basic sales principal.  He took the idea of cold calling and broke it down to a simple math equation. “If it took 20 phone calls to get an appointment, then you better get on the phone.”  I never knew if the numbers were right, but it didn’t matter - the principal was. I tell it to my self every time I start reaching out. I tell it to John when he get anxious about new business and I tell it to my kids as they search for jobs. It turns the rejection into a positive. Very Hunter.

2) The next thing I learned from Hunter I am still a bit confused about. I always thought he said ‘Close by assumption.’  But I think he may have been saying ‘Closed World Assumption’. I am not sure I want to know at this point as it is kind of cute not knowing. But either way, I understood it to mean that if I assume it to be true and act like it is true then others will assume the same as well. This matter of fact approach is what I bring to all my negotiations.

3) Hunter also introduced me to the idea of ‘Assume Goodwill.’  You would think by the time I turned 25 I would have heard this before but I hadn’t. By sharing this with me, Hunter gave me a gift that I used not only in business but as a friend and a parent.

4) Hunter appreciated his talent and his job and with that I learned to appreciate my own job.  He would always say how thankful he was to wake up everyday to this incredible job, be surrounded by such smart and creative people and be able to create images that would make people smile.  He didn’t just say this every once in a while. He said it all the time. He lived it.  Even despite the disappointment that came with the territory, Hunter taught me to appreciate the opportunities.

5) To Hunter, work was family. If you walked into Hunter’s studio, you felt like you were at home. He invited you to lunches and dinners, asked questions, listened to the answers, took photos of you and your family, came to your kid's birthday parties, shared New Yorker cartoons and little tidbits about life.  

As I look around the table today and I think about the combined years of friendship here, I would say that Hunter succeeded and we all benefited.

6) And lastly, Hunter gifted me with a deep understanding of joy.  He brought this to every set, to every dinner, every phone call and every conversation.  From that very first day we met on Mississippi Street to celebrating here 25 years later, I have seen and felt what complete happiness means. And for that I have Hunter to thank.

I love you Hunter.  Thank you for absolutely everything.