‘LA Gun Club’: artist Jane Hilton on who’s shooting who

‘LA Gun Club’, an exhibition by Jane Hilton at New York’s Palo Gallery, explores American gun culture through a study of targets and shooters

Target pictures from ‘La Gun Club’ exhibition by Jane Hilton, currently on show at Palo Gallery New York
Left, Target A and right, Target C
(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist)

‘This project evolved after I went for “recreational purposes” to the gun range after work,’ says artist Jane Hilton of the exhibition ‘LA Gun Club’, at New York's Palo Gallery until 23 March 2024. ‘I was doing a commercial job in LA, and my assistants asked me to join them. It didn’t occur to me until I got there, that I would be using “live” ammunition. I was given an AK47, and my arm was shaking… I was completely thrown by the whole thing.’

English photographer and filmmaker Hilton has been documenting American culture for 25 years, in work concerned primarily with the grey area between social acceptability and legality. After her experience at a gun range – where visitors shoot live ammunition at target posters with their choice of weapon – she planned to return to photograph personal gun collections, before creatively taking a different path.

‘LA Gun Club’: on target with Jane Hilton

target picture of man with moustache

Target O

(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist)

‘I decided to go back and make a more conceptual project by interviewing the shooters, and then taking their chosen targets they shot at, back to London. After choosing a cross-section of shooters’ targets, I re-photographed them on my 4x5 plate camera, making a large-format colour negative, to produce an archival pigment print. Silver metal plaques were made with the information of the shooter (firearm, occupation, and reason for being there). Then placed underneath the shooters’ target print, deliberately like a “commemoration plaque” dedicated to someone who has passed away. The very process of doing this, felt like it was making a “statement”.‘

Artist's text on plaque giving details of target shooter

Target C plaque

(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist)

 The targets chosen – caricatures of Middle Eastern men, ‘thugs,’ kidnappers, burglars – offer a snippet-like insight into prejudices. ‘The targets already had an aesthetic appeal, but were really non-PC (not politically correct),’ Hilton adds. ‘The contradiction of this and making a conceptual project where I took the shooters’ target posters back to London to “re-shoot” them, felt like a double entendre, another layer of complexity to an already complex issue. Also, by interviewing the shooters, keeping them anonymous and not photographing them, I was able to use this information in the end piece of artwork.’

target picture of man in desert pointing a gun

Target H

(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist)

Ultimately, the project was enlightening for its resistance to stereotypes, rather than for its conforming to them, offering an insight into who the owners of the 300 million guns in the US are. ‘It has made me aware that more people own guns in the US than I realised. Just to have one in their home makes them feel safer. By making this project, I found [that] an unexpected demographic own [guns]: school teachers, mothers, beauty therapists. Individuals came to the gun club for different reasons to shoot these targets. Some for pure recreation and practice, others for their job (bodyguards) and some because they just wanted to know what it felt like.’

‘LA Gun Club’ by Jane Hilton is on at New York’s Palo Gallery until 23 March 2024


Artist's text on plaque giving details of target shooter

Target B plaque

(Image credit: Courtesy of the artist)

Hannah Silver is the Art, Culture, Watches & Jewellery Editor of Wallpaper*. Since joining in 2019, she has overseen offbeat design trends and in-depth profiles, and written extensively across the worlds of culture and luxury. She enjoys meeting artists and designers, viewing exhibitions and conducting interviews on her frequent travels.