When I sat down with 17 year old fashion photographer Carlos Hernandez, I had pre-established questions at hand, as one does in an interview, but this evolved into an insightful discussion between two young individuals about photography, technological advances, self expression, contemporary art and the societal obstacles an artist must overcome.
When I first met Carlos, I was instantly aware of his determination and passion for his craft. He radiated with confidence and ambition but when I sat down and interviewed him, he took me by surprise with his insight and views about the future of contemporary art and technology. It was a pleasure to have an intellectual discussion with a like-minded, young person.
With more upcoming visionaries like Carlos, I wholeheartedly believe that our generation is on a path to excellence.
When and how did you realize that you had a knack for photography?
Carlos: Well, I started directing in the 8th grade. I was just in a school play. I was part of the drama club and we kind of ended up having to direct our play for the final show because our teacher wanted us to be independent. I ended up producing and directing a lot of that play as well as acting in some of it. From that, I started making videos and stuff and somehow, someway I got my first real camera and I was like “Hey! Let’s go and shoot!” to my friend and ever since then I’ve started shooting, and shooting, and shooting. And I’ve always loved fashion, high fashion. The weirder the better. I think that the less you’re able to understand something, the more that it makes you think, and the more interesting it becomes. So my appreciation for that started to grow as I started watching on YouTube all of these kids that were also doing it too and going to art school. It was kind of a weird path. It all started from this drama club, which is the last thing you would expect.
Was there any doubt or any reason to shy away from pursuing your career in fashion photography?
Not necessarily a doubt, it’s more like there’s just so much going on. I am a photographer but you know I also do other things. I love making short films, and I think it’s more about managing or doing multiple things and about understanding where you’re stronger. I am a stronger photographer than I am a filmmaker. So, obviously I have the eye for things I guess I would say; not to brag haha.
So, I wouldn’t say I had like some sort of doubt because I’ve always been a very determined person. The minute that I realize something, I go and just do it. For me, it’s like this is all that I want to do with my life. I want to be shooting for Vogue before I’m 26. It’s kind of a thing that just has to happen for myself.
I know when I write the minute I pick up a pen and paper or get my fingers on a keyboard words begin to flow. Is photography similar to you in this sense? When you look through a lens is there a change or a vision that is made clear?
I guess I would definitely say that. I guess it’s the simple things and the way your eyes work. You see this whole image and everything is in an orbit. But when you’re shooting with a camera, everything is frame and you have to learn composition. You use that to your advantage and you start seeing things in a different way. Which is also like a metaphor for life. You always see things one way but sometimes things need to be seen in a different way.
Yeah, life is all about perspective and I think that photography also has that message and that’s where you’re able to use that conceptual stuff.
Where and when are you most drawn to capture moments? Is there an area or scenery, a commotion or situation, a picture or image perhaps?
When I do shoots, they’re usually pretty planned out. I like things to be planned out. I like to have a theme, I like to have a mood board. There has to be a point to what I’m doing. I don’t like shooting without a purpose. I think that growing up, I appreciated pictures from weddings and that kind of stuff, but the more that I’ve grown up and the more that I’ve learned about myself, I’ve developed an appreciation for something that has a deeper message and is planned out. I appreciate it when something is candid, but for my art I want it to have a structure that has a lot of levels to dig into.
Are there are any shoots, pictures, or projects that are your absolute favorite? What about these select few stand out from the rest?
I think that my favorites shoots are the ones where everything just flows together or the one where the model just shocks me. I’m obviously young, so I end up shooting with a lot of friends and sometimes you don’t see this side of people, and when you’re able to get someone to be comfortable in front of a camera and they loosen up, and they’re able to get this confidence that they have never had, it’s something that’s beautiful to see. I don’t have a favorite picture or anything. This one was sort of like a milestone for me. It was probably when I shot with this model, she was the first model that I ever shot with that I was really proud of my work. I thought we were just vibing so well together that the work that was coming out during the shoot, I knew I was going to love that work. That was over a year ago and till this day there are a couple of pictures from that shoot that I’m proud of myself for taking those shots. I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
I know I have a vision or an idea of where I would like my career to take me. I’m curious to know if you have an idea of where you would like your career to take you? You mentioned Vogue.
My goal in life is to be a fashion photographer and to make a living from my passion. Like I said, i want to be shooting for magazines, I want t be shooting ads. I think that be able to make a difference in the way people see things. People always see images online, people are always looking a content. You’re just scrolling through I and you see all these sponsored posts but I want a post to be more than just a post. I want people to be drawn in by an image. I want to explore out of the ordinary things. I don’t want to shoot the same girl. Yes I appreciate beauty, but I want to break away from all these ideas and gender norms and all this kind of stuff that is set on upon us by society. I want to show that things don’t have to be so “A or B”; they don’t have to be so black and white, they can have a gray space. There can be a mix between everything.
List a few bucket list achievements that you would like to accomplish in your career within the near future.
Get into art school, that’s definitely one. That’s coming up within the next months. I want to start shooting for agencies. It’s more just about me getting out there, me putting myself out there. Allowing myself to just lose this mindset that I’m not good enough. I think that every artist has that thing where it’s like, “You’re not good enough. You can’t do this.” I’m sure you’ve felt that at times where it’s like, “This is trash.” I’ve felt that all the time. I think, “I know I can do better than this. Why did I ever do it this way?” I think it’s more about improvement. It’s a gradual thing and things will come, but there’s definitely a long list of things I want to do over the next couple of years that include shooting for magazines and getting published, and working for brands.
List a few personal qualities/characteristics that you believe played key factors in your career choice. For example, curiosity or persistence.
I’m a very observant person. So while I do talk a lot (like I never shut up), at the same time I am paying attention to everything that is going on in a room. It’s kind of a bad thing but I will point out the smallest things. The attention to detail is definitely an important part of being a photographer because you have to pay attention to so many things. In a simple shot, I don’t think people realize how many things you’re looking at when you’re taking a picture. I’m a very detail-minded person along with my determination. I have this drive. I want to do this and nothing is going to stop me from getting to that point.
There has been a wave of young adults becoming more and more interested in digital media, photograph, graphic design, etc. Why do you think that is and how do you think it will contribute to our technologically and artistically advancing society?
Obviously technology has evolved over the past two decades at such a rapid pace never seen before. Now with the accessibility of just a camera, like your own phone, you don’t have the restrictions that you used to have.You don’t need to buy a $3,000 camera. You don’t need to buy a $4,000 computer with hundreds of dollars worth of software. Everything is in the palm of our hands kind of. So it’s so accessible. For a long time people just used to create art with paint brushes and drawing, but now that’s evolving where people aren’t just doing that. They’re implementing contemporary art and they’re now using digital media with that. They’re now using graphic design, like you said. It’s kind of like the worlds are colliding and the digital age is meeting the contemporary world. It’s like an inevitable change that was meant to happen because of technological advances. I think in a couple of decades from now we’ll be seeing what we never thought could be possible be readily accessible to the everyday consumer. Especially with art, I think there are a lot of people who have ideas but aren’t able to bring them to life. As technology advances maybe one day there will be machinery that is able to produce this drawing for you from your mind. I don’t know where things are going. We don’t know where things are going but they’re going somewhere.
I think that accessibility has always been the issue. Doing art, even contemporary art, that is very high costly, it is so expensive. Even with basic materials, those materials are expensive and technology advances things will become cheaper. Like an SD card, I think a 4 terabyte SD card is now a couple hundred dollars, who would’ve thought that in 2005 that would’ve been thousands of dollars.
Do you think that there’s an image or a negative connotation with the artists, like term “the starving artist”. Is there an image that is frowned upon for people going into photography and art?
I think that when people think of photography they don’t necessarily think of an artist. That’s an issue but it’s also a challenge that I like to accept. As a contemporary artists, 100%. The stigma that “Oh, you’re not going to be successful in life. You can’t do this, you can’t do that.” It sucks! It sucks incredibly for the regular artist who is trying to make their art the way they can and the way that they want to. But I think that as a photographer, it’s a bit easier to get public acceptance. There’s obvious commercial opportunities. You can shoot for ads, and that’s more accessible and people don’t about the art behind that. People don’t always associate art with photography. But I always like to challenge that idea and make you think with my work. Like “oh that looks weird!”, no it doesn’t look weird. It’s just unusual and you’ve never seen it before. Art is supposed to make you angry, it’s supposed to bring that emotion out of you. It’s supposed to make you uncomfortable.
This last question brought Carlos and I to discuss one our favorite quotes. I thought it’d appropriate to end this by citing it..
“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” – Banksy
Carlos Hernandez attends Content Creators Academy JC, a non-profit organization focused on providing students with experience in digital media and content creation. You can support CCAJC by donating via GoFundMe, applying to be a mentor, or applying to be a student if you’re between the ages of 14 and 17.