John Hafner

John Hafner is a Montana based advertising/editorial and sporting photographer. He seems to specialise in sports hunting photography. Notwithstanding the commercial aspect of his images, I still feel his work is worth a mention and appropriate for my final assignment as his work involves quite a bit of staging. As he is a commercial photographer, I have only included links to his images, as I don’t want to run the risk of copyright infringement.

What I really like about his work is firstly the choice of models. For the most part he has chosen gritty, rough looking individuals (you could translate this as ‘rednecks’) although he has included some women in his portfolio as well (field & stream 47). In this photo we can see the photographer’s perfect timing in capturing the spent cartridge being ejected out of the shotgun’s chamber.

Secondly I like the way in which he has captured and interpreted the light and shadows in his outdoor photos (see duck-commander 2, field & stream 19 and field & stream 8).  For the most part he has made excellent use of natural light, although he probably used a bit of bounce flash with some of the outdoor portrait shots. His night portraits obviously are done with flash, but the flash is not intrusive and seems to blend well the surroundings. I won’t be commenting on his indoor portraits as my assignment will be shot outdoors.

Even though the photos are staged to a certain degree, one can feel the sense of anticipation of the hunt in the images. Hafner pays close attention to his subjects and tends to let his backgrounds blow out on occasion (duck-commander 4), which I really don’t mind, unlike my camera club judges who would comment that there is not enough detail in the sky. I don’t think everything has to necessarily be perfect in a photograph – after all we don’t live in a perfectly highlighted/shadowed world. We do have white skies in North America during the winter – its a fact of life.

I also like the way in which Hafner has paid attention to the tones in his photos. The tones are muted and slightly warm in keeping with the autumn and winter seasonal vegetation. This is something I may have problems with as our forests are still quite green at this time. I’ve noticed that many of Hafner’s photographs are shot from a low point of view, well below the subject. This angle conveys a sense of power, emphasising the predator and prey scenario that is playing out in the image. In some of his images he has chosen a higher vantage point and this in turn creates a sensation that the hunter is being watched by the prey which is hidden in a tree or behind a bush higher up the mountain. His images also convey a sense of stillness, even the group photos of the hunters sitting in their blind have that sense of quiet anticipation. One can almost hear the silence in the images.

Something else to bear in mind when I do my final assignment is to include a few detail shots. Hafner includes detail shots of spent cartridges, close ups of birds, parts of the rifles and hands.

As far as some of the semiotics of the images go, the rifles signify death and destruction; the strangely camouflaged men convey a sinister sense of foreboding which reinforces the death signification theme which run through all the images. This is borne out in Susan Sontag’s statement (1977, p.54):

The view of reality as an exotic prize to be tracked down and captured by the diligent hunter-with-a-camera has informed photography from the beginning, and marks the confluence of the surrealist counter-culture and middle-class social adventurism.

Reference List

John Hafner Photography [online]. Available from: [Accessed 2 March, 2016]

Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux


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