The Exhumists

tj huff

T.J. Huff is a NYC based photographer who currently works on an art history based project wherein he and the model pick an artist from history that inspires them and shoot together with specific works as points of reference.


How did the idea for this project come about?


All of the art I create references art from years passed. I’ve even started a faux-arts-movement called Exhumism which is based on exhuming older ideas of art creation in newer art forms. Photographing models in specific art historical poses was a concept that I came up with 2 years ago as I was planning a trip to Rome. I had just read Michelangelo and the Popes Ceiling by Ross King and became obsessed with the figures in the Sistine Chapel painting and the process of an early 30’s Michelangelo stepping into a new terrain of painting that he wasn’t too well versed in. This felt parallel to me as I was more a painter/woodcutter but in my early 30’s decided to jump into photography. Recreating the poses of the Sistine Chapel with models seemed a great way to jumpstart my photography career and elevate the human form in my art.


How would you define beauty?


My particular approach to beauty requires sincerity. I like seeing things as honest as they can be, if that shows the seams and imperfections that everything inevitably has, all the better.


Can we photograph the female body differently in a more powerful way?


I think everything we can say in art is part of a conversation that has already started possibly hundreds of years ago. However, every conversation needs a counterpoint and a rebuttal, as such I am sure that we can photograph the female body in many ways not yet fully explored. One thing that is exciting to be a part of, is that the conversation is changing and women are now no longer simply muses like it was in much of history, but more and more artists are women. The female models I work with have at least as much say in the final product as I do and are considered equal-collaborators not just bodies.


What inspires you?


I am inspired by art history obviously, but more specifically the chance to reinterpret art history is what fuels my photography the most.


Film or digital?


My day job is a retoucher and my clients use both. I see validity in both forms, but for my own work, I shoot digitally on a Sony A7 and the ability to play around with composition and juxtapose digital elements into the photograph is an element of my art that I rely heavily on.


What makes you happy?


My cats, my bike, a good book and a good breeze.


What’s next for you?


The series of portraits based on art history will continue until I run out of steam because I don’t think I will ever run out of resources. That said, my art is malleable and changes direction naturally so I assume it will do that soon. Though one specific thing I am doing next is using some of the black and white photos in a zine that will accompany a music project called Flesh Out.

photography: tj huff