Workspace: For photographer Daryl Bunn, perfection is the goal

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  • | 12:00 p.m. December 21, 2016
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Photographing people gets messy.

“They don’t stay where you put them. And they talk back,” said Daryl Bunn. “When you’re shooting products, you don’t have those problems.”

And he should know.

Bunn is a Jacksonville commercial product photographer who has been producing images for clients for over 40 years. He also is a fine art photographer, serigraphy artist, art collector, designer and woodworker.

He works out of his rehabbed studio at Edison and May streets in Brooklyn that he bought as a condemned building in 1982. He lives upstairs with his four cats — Jack, Edison, May and Rufus.

His passion for photography began when his parents gave him a camera for Christmas as a boy in northern Michigan. He loved it. He spent three years in the Navy as a photographer, which is how he ended up in Jacksonville.

After leaving the service, Bunn went back home for a bit. He jumped at the opportunity to start his business in Jacksonville in the back of a frame shop, shooting anything that would help buy a few groceries and put gas in the tank.

Little by little — by working hard and getting some good breaks — he ended up shooting for advertising agencies.

At first it was a lot of resort imagery, but eventually he graduated to table-top and product work.

“I like to spend an hour or two strategically placing sesame seeds on a bun. … That’s kind of my personality,” jokes Bunn.

Most successful photographs look like you’re just clicking a button, Bunn said. But there’s so much more involved.

During a recent shoot for a sandwich restaurant chain, he sat down with the food stylist while they carefully assembled the components of the chain’s newest sub to be photographed for advertising.

Each piece is chosen carefully from several possibilities that are brought in to give the sandwich the right look.

At the end of the day, Bunn loaded up the leftover food and took it to the Sulzbacher Center so it wouldn’t be wasted.

The client needed one perfect photo of one sandwich. With the input of their marketing folks, ad agency people and art director, it took eight hours to make it happen. Eight hours.

“I like perfection. The best it can be,” Bunn said.

Photoshop can be a big part of advertising work, but getting it as perfect as possible in the camera is his goal.

The camera he uses for his commercial work creates some of the sharpest images in the industry. To his knowledge, there’s not another one in use in the area. He says the detail it captures can blow art directors’ minds when they see the photos for the first time.

“I’ve never studied photography. It’s the stupidest major,” Bunn said. “You learn to do photography by shooting a ton.”

Which he has.

Over the years, Bunn has dabbled in creating serigraphic prints using the silk-screen printing process.

He enjoys the process and the riskiness of creating these prints, which allows him to be more expressive than in his day-to-day photography work.

While he can control the outcome of his photographs, the process in serigraphy is a bit more messy and not as easy to control the final product.

Bunn may start with 25 pieces but end up with only 10 that conform to his original vision.

Woodworking provides another outlet for his creative expression. He built the kitchen cabinets in the living area of his studio building along with some tables used to display his art collection.

He also has a thing for creating interesting lamps from found objects like tree roots and an antique typewriter. He makes them without destroying the functionality of the original item.

About his penchant for making the items, he says, “They may not find me handsome, but at least they’ll find me handy.”

Over the years, he’s amassed quite a portfolio of fine art photography work of which he’s very proud. It tends to be still life and interesting objects. Much of it is on display on the gallery walls of his studio.

“I’ve sold a few pieces, here and there,” he says modestly.

Bunn’s work can be found on the walls of the Mayo Clinic, Baptist Health, law firms and in private collections throughout the area.

He’s seen a world of change in the art culture in Jacksonville over the years. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, there was nothing going on. Today it’s great to be a part of it and it continues to excite him for the future of art in this city.

“But it’s the commercial work that pays the bills around here,” he said.

Bunn numbers some major companies among his clients, over the years shooting anything from food to medical equipment to billiard products to exotic cars. His work appears in catalogs, in magazines and on billboards.

He once shot boxing promoter Don King’s new $200,000 Lamborghini in his studio. “And I got to drive it before he did,” Bunn said.

At 63, Bunn doesn’t know what the future holds. While he has a for sale sign on his property, he would really hate to move.

Maybe he’ll retire someday and split his time between Jacksonville, his home in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and even Michigan, during the milder months.

He’s always been one to let the wind blow him where it will.

“As long as the guy upstairs keeps his eye on me and keeps me out of trouble,” he said.

If he doesn’t have to force things, Bunn figures it’s meant to be.