An Interview with @TrentAesthetic – Behind the Lens

A triptych featuring a selection of spaces on Symons campus. Photos by and courtesy of Caleb Hunt (@trentaesthetic on Instagram).

The online archive of pictures featuring Trent’s unmistakable architectural beauty is certainly in no dry season. The campus continues to serve as the backdrop of everything from graduation photos, Snapchat streaks, and more recently the intricacies of the various nooks and crannies we pass by on a regular basis. For those of our readers active on Instagram, you may have come across the visually stunning works of the @trentaesthetic – aptly named, given the account is credited for having accelerated Trent’s visual popularity among over a thousand followers and counting.

I recently contacted the owner of the account, Caleb Hunt, whom I was fortunate enough to interview:

Spencer Wells: What can you tell us about yourself?

Caleb Hunt: I’m Caleb. I’m a Trent alumnus (started class of ’07, graduated in ’09) and for the last 10 years, I’ve worked for Trent as the Adaptive Technologist with Student Accessibility Services. If you don’t run into me around Blackburn Hall or around campus, you’ll probably find me on the fairways of Kawartha Golf & Country Club. On the photography side of things, I shoot spaces. Interiors, design, renovations, restorations, real estate, and architecture – that’s the scope of the photography I’m into. I’ve been shooting professionally in that space for almost a decade now.

SW: What drives your passion for photography?

CH: I think one of the things that have been helpful in keeping me engaged as a photographer has been consciously defining a niche, and operating almost exclusively in it. I don’t venture too far outside the world of interiors and architecture in the stuff I like to take photos of. I see the Trent Aesthetic as an extension of this. I often get asked about other photography-related work (weddings, portraits, events, that sort of stuff) but I happily refer to other photographers better suited for that scope.

It’s quite liberating shooting what you’re interested in, developing a style and working with clients. I’ve met a lot of great people and have had the opportunity to shoot some incredible spaces.

Photography is generally an exercise in observation. Observing directionality of light, shadows, contrast, etc. You can walk past one location in the morning that looks completely different later in the afternoon because of where the sun is in the sky. That stuff is fun to pay attention to.

SW: What inspired you to start the @trentaesthetic?

CH: I think a lot of my inspiration stems from a fascination with architecture and design. I get to see and shoot a lot of spaces, but few have the rich mid-century architectural and historical significance such as that of Trent’s campus. This heritage is something I’ve only recently developed an appreciation for. I’ve worked at Trent for a decade and there are still spaces I’m discovering and angles of architectural features of buildings, etc. that I hadn’t noticed before.

When I felt an itch to start a personal photo project in the spring, I had a pretty good idea where I could source some subject matter. The timing of the start of the Trent Aesthetic coincided with the end of the winter term as the campus emptied out after April exams. There’s a lot of freedom and flexibility to explore spaces when the campus is quiet. No one could deny that the campus is photogenic, but I was drawn to capturing some of the smaller, often unnoticed or unrecognized details that make it so. There’s a handful of curated minimalist/urban/architectural detail type Instagram accounts and websites that I enjoy following online; I’m trying to create images that are uniquely “Trent” but also like that of an account I’d want to follow myself.

SW: How do you feel about the reception of the community on your page?

CH: I’ve had a lot of really cool feedback and the whole social aspect has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of running the account. I know that there is a lot of memories, nostalgia and heritage tied up in these little vignettes and I’ve had some really nice comments from folks following the account expressing exactly that. I haven’t tried to be totally anonymous in terms of who’s running the account, but I’ve tried to keep it fairly low-key. It’s been interesting watching people’s reactions when they make the connection. I’ve also had people send along images of their own noting things that have caught their eye around campus and reminded them of the Trent Aesthetic. I think that’s awesome and I’d love to share them, and I’d encourage anyone who wants to do the same, join in using #trentaesthetic.