The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    Photographing a future

    Natalie Hunter, as anyone who knows her will tell you, has always had a knack for taking pictures. “Talented” or “devoted” are some of the words used by her friends to describe the junior photography major from Vadnais Heights, Minn. – “an artistic person with sincere, photographic passion,” they say.

    So high is Natalie’s passion for photography, in fact, that right now – at the ripe age of 20 years old – she’s already become a highly-demanded photographer for weddings, senior pictures and model portfolio shots. On top of that, she continues to balance being a successful art student with an abundance of elaborate and creatively-composed showcases under her belt… and that’s just the beginning.

    “I’ve been in love with photography for as long as I can remember,” she said, with obvious excitement ringing in her voice. “There’s something about it that’s always captivated me – it just suits me so well.”

    She speaks of her accomplishments with modesty, but it’s clear that, underneath it all, there’s a genuine level of enthusiasm that’s impossible not to admire.

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    “I just can’t see myself doing anything else… I’ve been so fortunate so far with everything I’ve been able to do,” she said.

    As is the trend with most talents, Natalie’s eye for film started early; growing up in Seattle, she said, was when she first realized her “weapon of choice” for the rest of her life would involve a lens and shutter.

    From there, she says, it all just took off.

    In the beginning

    “A while ago, a friend of mine asked me: ‘When did you first become interested in photography?’ And honestly, I couldn’t think of a distinct time … and then I remembered – I was really young, at my dad’s house,” she said. “I had a Nintendo 64, and I was playing …” (stops to laugh) “… embarrassing to admit, but I was playing Pokémon Snap. But I loved it! I just got to take pictures. There was something so simple and rewarding about it.”

    She purchased her first camera shortly afterward, and soon became notorious around school for being “that camera girl” rarely seen in public without the device strapped around her neck.

    “My interest just kept growing – I wanted to get as much experience in as I could,” she said.

    She enrolled in countless art classes throughout middle and high school. During her later years, her work caught the attention of Brittney McCready, a fellow classmate and aspiring model.

    “I remember seeing her (Natalie’s) artwork hanging up around the art room at school and just being really impressed,” said McCready. “Around that same time – since it was my last year – everyone was getting their senior pictures taken. To be honest, they were all … well, they were all just bad! I did not want to be in that category for my pictures.”

    Somewhat out of the blue, McCready approached Natalie about taking her senior photos. Natalie, as she remembers, was pleasantly shocked.

    “I was so surprised when she approached me,” Natalie said. “I had always just seen photography as a hobby … I never thought I’d be getting paid for it.”

    The session went well, and, much to McCready’s wishes, the pictures turned out better than she could have ever imagined.

    “Everyone loved them (the photos)!” she said.

    After the initial session, McCready asked Natalie to help her again – this time, in shooting photos for her modeling portfolio. Like the first time around, she was more than ecstatic with the results.

    “I really see Brittney as being a huge stepping stone for my photography career,” Natalie said. “She had these huge aspirations to become a runway model – I was so honored to be asked to help.”

    And the pictures certainly did help. Shortly following the initial shoots, McCready was asked to move to New York to model for Elite Modeling Management, an international modeling organization.

    “I’m so grateful for the experience I had with Natalie,” McCready said. “She’s so friendly and talented – when you have a photographer like that, it really makes the shoot a much more enjoyable experience. She really is amazing.”

    Business is a’ boomin’

    Following the “stepping stone” with McCready, Natalie’s immaculate talent and genuine personality soon became well-known in the Minnesota area. From 2006-2008, she was hired as the official photographer for the Minnesota Ballpark Authority – her tasks included taking construction photos of Target Field and posting them on their website, acting as a sort of documenter for the development of the highly-anticipated stadium.

    In addition to that, she continued to take senior photos and was the official photographer for seven weddings – one of them in Long Island, NY.

    “Being able to shoot weddings was incredible. When I was asked I just thought, ‘What an honor!” Natalie said. “It allowed me to work with a variety of people and incorporate their ideas into the mix, too – the final product was very rewarding.”

    Notable projects

    In addition to making quite the impression as an entrepreneur, Natalie has also created a continuous collection of photo showcases at the university.

    Upon entering college – and after quickly declaring photography as a major – she embarked on a number of unique projects, exploring the different elements of photography as an art form.

    “My all time favorite class I’ve taken was a dark room class – we used photo emulsion, this special chemical that you apply to a surface to make it more light-reflective. I tried it on stretched canvas,” she said. “I wanted the project to focus on these couples, and kind of intertwine the different canvas pieces with lyrics from the band, The Spill Canvas (no pun intended). They were these really romantic lyrics, and I wanted to showcase all the elements that love has by romanticizing the lyrics and giving the piece a visual environment.”

    Another project involved senior and friend, Alicia Gerber.

    “The photo shoot we did was really dark and edgy,” Gerber said. “It had this idea of being bound or tied; there were shots of my hands tied, my feet tied, my neck tied – basically these different ideas of just being bound to something against your will.”

    After working with Natalie on the project, Alicia said she admired her perseverance and vision as an artist.

    “Natalie just has this presence, you know? I can’t really explain it,” she said. “She takes her camera everywhere. But she doesn’t just snap group photos – she prefers a different view, like taking shots of someone’s reflection in a window or something. No matter what, though, all the photos she takes are absolutely beautiful.”

    Future goals

    As her resume continues to grow with experience, Natalie plans to continue photographing as much as possible. As far as post-graduation is concerned, she has her eyes set on the magazine industry.

    “My ultimate dream job would be to photograph for National Geographic,” she said. “Every photo they release is simply earth-shattering. There’s this specific picture that was taken right after (hurricane) Katrina struck … it’s just this corpse lying in the water … and I don’t know why, but it’s just stuck with me and moved me.

    “I’ve always been a big fan of print media,” she went on to say. “And photographers for that kind of media can go a long way – like the National Geographic pictures … they’re just proof of the impact photographers can really make.”

    Her friends agree that she’s headed in the right direction.

    “It’s just what she’s meant for, really,” McCready said. “If she doesn’t go into photography, it will be the biggest mistake of her life.”

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