Although he has lived for half a century, Steve Hernandez remains innocent in his approach to life and photography. He is not preoccupied with strategy, business, moneymaking or any kind of reciprocity, material or otherwise, as it pertains to his work. He is concerned solely with capturing images as he sees them through his eyes. Which is not to say that he is lazy in his approach to his work. On the contrary, he probably produces as many images over time as individuals who are “professional photographers”. His appetite seems never-ending, eager to capture new images and be surprised by what each new interaction of light and life reveal. With the current pace of the world, and the eagerness to turn everything into a business, it is refreshing to interact with someone who is driven by something else altogether. What is he driven by?…He calls it an obsession.
EP: When did your photography start?
SH: It started when I was at SBCS doing a course in media and communications. One day the lecturer brought out some cameras, told us to go out in the streets and shoot a couple of photos and bring them back. And I can`t remember what I shot but it felt so natural and so easy that I wanted to do it again and then I just got hooked after that. It was like an addiction.
EP: What year was that?
SH: I think that was in 2007.
EP: Would you call it a passion?
SH: I wouldn`t call it a passion. I think for me it goes deeper than that.
EP: What would you call it then?
SH: An obsession.
EP: How does the obsession manifest for you?
SH: In that I would see something and it would reach out to me to shoot it. Sometimes if I can`t shoot, if I have to work or if I have appointments, there is a build-up of energy and I have to release that energy somehow.
EP: You`re 51, have you ever experienced anything like that before?
EP: Is there a specific thing that you can point to that has you captivated?
SH: It`s about light. Some people tend to think, “Oh you like to shoot women or you like to shoot houses or landscapes or seascapes.” It`s not about the subject it`s about the light. So the light could be striking a leaf and that will draw my attention.
It`s About Light
EP: Do you have any favourite images?
SH: I have thousands of images, but for each photo I`ve probably deleted about ten. That would be impossible to define because it`s about the light so once light strikes an object in a certain way, it will appeal to me, so I can`t have any one particular image no.
EP: Do you have a place that you`re trying to reach with your photography?
SH: Yes, it`s not to come to a level of being well known or to make money, it`s liberty. It`s to be free, to have the freedom to shoot an object the way I want to shoot it. And what I have difficulties with is people in Trinidad tend to confine my liberty in regards to shooting. If I ask to shoot something or someone they will ask “What you want to use it for? Where is it going?” and stuff like that. Sometimes it has nothing to do with going anywhere. It`s just that how the light is striking at that time I would want to shoot that particular image. And also people have a tendency to typecast you. So if I say I want to shoot a woman they would tend to think “Oh, yuh attracted to this lady” or “Yuh like nude women” or some ridiculous statement and it`s not about that. It`s about creativity, it`s about art. It`s about capturing something at that moment in time, regardless of gender, race ….regardless, it doesn`t matter what it is, it`s light.
It`s liberty. It`s to be free, to have the freedom to shoot an object the way I want to shoot it.
EP: Do you have aspirations to create images on a certain level? A “master” level.
SH: No. What I want, is liberty. I want to be able to get up on a morning and shoot an object how I see it in my mind. Not based on previous work or on the masters or any first world photographer. But what I conjure up in my imagination and what I want to capture as is.
EP: It`s not really about an end goal…
SH: No. It`s a personal process.
“They would tend to think “Oh, yuh attracted to this lady” or “Yuh like nude women” or some ridiculous statement and it`s not about that. It`s about creativity, it`s about art. It`s about capturing something at that moment in time, regardless of gender, race ….regardless, it doesn`t matter what it is, it`s light.”
EP: What is your favourite type of image to do?
SH: Low-key. Most of my images I like to shoot are low-key images because they tend to be more dramatic and a glimmer of light will stand out more in darkness as opposed to bright midday sun.
EP: I know you work with models, mostly female models, I haven`t seen that many male models. I guess it`s because female models like to pose.
SH: Well not only that, it`s about homophobia too. I remember one time I made an appointment to shoot a male and he jumped out at last minute because it was supposed to be a nude.
EP: The models that you enjoy shooting, what is it about them that makes it so enjoyable for you?
SH: What is really enjoyable for me in shooting a model is her ability to be free. Her ability not to be intimidated by people watching or by nudity. Or by the photographer or his lens. But who can be so confident and full of self-esteem that they will go into different modes or different attitudes without having to be coaxed. That makes the job so much easier. There are few women that I`ve shot that have that ability.
EP: What is the biggest compliment for you to receive about your work?
SH: That the photograph brings or brought tears to the onlooker’s eyes. And people have said that before. I did a baby shower and the whole company of people who were at the shower when they saw themselves they started crying.
EP: Do you think your work has improved over the years? How?
SH: I would say yes because now I have an idea of what to look for. Certain looks, certain positions, certain nuances.
EP: When you`re actually in the process of doing a photoshoot, what`s your favourite moment?
SH: The experimentation aspect. Sometimes a picture might look terrible on the camera but when you take it home it looks different. So it`s like fishing, you`re not sure what you`re going to get.
EP: So the surprise element?
EP: What does it mean to you to be extraordinary?
SH: Well I think it`s part of your identity. It has to do with your identity. It has to do with being unique. Just as your fingerprint differs. I shouldn`t be classed as a normal photographer or be compared to somebody else because I am me. They type of looks, or what you eat or how you express yourself, the nuances …that`s you, I can`t do that.
You can follow Steve`s Photography Journey here: Steve Hernandez`s Photo Journey