Don Hunstein grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and attended Washington University, graduating in 1950 with a degree in English. After college he enlisted in the US Air Force and was stationed in Fairford, England where he was assigned a desk job. It was this assignment that allowed him to travel around Europe. He began photographing casually, taking pictures to send home to his family. As time went on, combined with the help of a Leica M3 and inspiration from Henri Cartier Bresson’s books, his hobby began to take him on a lifelong journey. After a year in Fairford, Hunstein was transferred to a base outside of London. There, he joined a local camera club and took evening classes at London’s Central School of Art and Design, and grew influenced by the artists and designers whom he met there.
Hunstein’s iconic photographs have become symbols of an era. In the history of music photography, Hunstein’s work during his 30 years at Columbia records is unsurpassed in its scope and breadth. Through his subtle humor and quiet nature, he was able to record many great moments in music history. He photographed the famous, the not so famous, and hundreds of album covers and behind-the-scenes work. His photographs documented a rare time when musicians spent time on their art, rather than their publicity. Hunstein had the ability to listen with his camera; Instinctively he understood that to capture artists at their best moments, patience, trust, and humility were needed. This ability to set both new comers and experienced stars at ease in his presence is evident in his photographs, which captured intimate, personal moments as well as quintessential portraits.