Today’s interview is with Richard ‘Koci’ Hernandez!
You worked in photojournalism for 15 years before becoming an assistant professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley. What first sparked your interest in storytelling through photographs?
I would have to say that a very shy personality helped propel me into the field of photography or visual communication. At the age of 14 when I discovered the work of Ansel Adams and obtained an old Nikon camera from my uncle I soon realized after a few snapshots and several rolls of film the power of photography. I was in love.
You have earned numerous accolades for your work including an Emmy Award and two Pulitzer Prize nominations. Personally, what do you view as your biggest accomplishment as a photographer?
Honestly, as silly as this sounds, I truly believe that my largest accomplishment in photography is my patience and persistence. Despite years and years of failure, poor lighting and composition in my images, I never gave up on photography. When I finally mastered the basics I never stopped learning. My restlessness at viewing my work as, “not good enough” or the feeling that I haven’t captured a moment perfectly keeps me coming back for more.
Your street photography is taken entirely with your iPhone. What techniques do you use to capture evocative photographs of strangers in a covert way?
My street photography certainly is about the idea of stealth and operating in a very covert way. But I always have to qualify this answer with caution: I am not trying to be “creepy” passionate about the history and art of street photography.
For me, street photography is all about capturing a moment in time that reflects society, how we dress, look, act and interact with each other on the street. I want to capture these moments and hopefully in time my images will be somewhat of a time capsule of who we were at this particular time in history. I like to think of myself simply as a mirror reflecting back what I see. Many men and women throughout history have been practicing the art of street photography in this very manner. Anyone interested in street photography should find the work of Vivian Maier and see it as a classic example. She is my new heroine.
Specifically, a few of my tricks to capture the human animal in its natural habitat are:
1. Wear headphones. No one pays attention to you and when you are wearing headphones they think you are in your own little world, not taking pictures.
2. Shoot from the hip. I try to never look at my screen and just tap to shoot, the moment you look at your screen people will begin to suspect that you are making images.
Those are just two of about a dozen techniques that I have to photograph as stealthily as possible.
If limited to just three words, how would you describe your photographic style?
Dark, mysterious and textured.
Who are your favorite photographers?
Roy DeCarava, Vivian Maier, William Klein, Saul Leiter, Helen Levitt, Gary Winogrand, just to name a few. 🙂
Your iPhone work has earned you quite the following, particularly on Instagram where you have 163,000 followers (and counting!) Some claim that the rise of iPhoneography is ruining photography. How would you argue its relevance?
Those that claim that mobile photography is ruining photography have lost their minds. I hate to sound so harsh but I am ridiculously passionate about the idea that the capture device is a dead end argument when discussing images. Who cares? I truly wish we could all just shut up and shoot. We all need to get over ourselves, megapixels, capture devices and go back to the basic magical principles that got us hooked on photography in the first place. Let’s talk about light, composition, moment and the subject matter that we are photographing, not what device we are using to make images. The iPhone is not ruining photography. I think if we were to truly have an intelligent discussion about the state of photography it has more to do with what we choose to photograph not choose to photograph with.
What are your favorite iPhone apps?
And like my list of favorite photographers this could go on and on. 🙂
Excluding other photographers, where do you find inspiration for your work?
Again, this could be a very long and exhaustive list but I honestly find inspiration everywhere, every day, all of the time all around me. To be a little more specific, I would have to say that currently I am finding lots of photographic inspiration in modern graphic and web design, not to mention in movies like Blade Runner.
Tell us more about lofimode.com.
This is a small personal project created by myself and a really good friend that I met via Instagram, Dan Cristea. It’s just a site that both of us use to share things that we find interesting about mobile and street photography.
What is your current favorite photo that you’ve taken (and why)?
I know this will sound extremely pretentious but I can’t answer this question because I don’t have a favorite. I truly believe that if I had a favorite image it would make me complacent and less likely to continue photographing. I hope this makes sense but part of my motivation to shoot is to eventually photograph what I would personally consider the holy grail of images and once I capture that image then I can stop. So until then the search or the hunt, continues.
What things are on the horizon for you and your photography?
I like to think that, for me, there is no line on the horizon. I take things as they come and often live and plan my life much like my street photography just taking things as they present themselves. Specifically, I’m working on a documentary film that recently took me to Vietnam and I was able to do some street photography in Hanoi which I have been sharing on Instagram. I’m also lucky enough to be represented by the Slate Contemporary gallery in Oakland where I have a few images in a group show.
Thank you Richard for spending some time with us today and sharing your insights with us!
Would you like to see even more of Richards’s beautiful photography? Make sure you visit his website, blogs lofimode and multimediashooter, and facebook to view his images. Don’t forget to also follow him on twitter, pinterest, and instagram!