“The mere act of desaturating the world makes things easier as it distills them down to their essence and essentially allows me to focus intently on the things I care most about, like light, body language, composition and moment. And it’s probably sprinkled with a little nostalgia I would say.”
Richard Koci Hernandez (born in 1969) is an award-winning visual storyteller and prominent iPhone photographer currently residing in Oakland, California (USA). He’s represented by SLATE Contemporary Gallery, Oakland, California.
Artist statement: Emmy-award-winner Richard Koci Hernandez has been practicing street photography for decades, favoring low-tech media such as pin-hole cameras, Holgas, and more recently, the iPhone, to create mysterious images of urban landscapes and people on the move. His black and white work has a distinctly film-noir flavor, evoking modernist photography of the ’30s which balances formal compositions with gritty textures and human narratives. People are often captured in profile, appearing as a silhouette or the simple shape of a hat, umbrella, or heels set in the anonymous cities, corridors, train stations, and airports of our global world. While the black and white pictures feel real, surreal, and timeless, his color images are more contemporary, glamorous, and cosmopolitan in tone. Yet it is just as hard to place them in time and space.
SLATE contemporary is honored to be the first gallery to represent Richard’s photography, starting with a curated collection of 20 photographs which are available in limited editions as archival pigment prints on paper, or as prints on metal, in two sizes (15×15 and 30×30).
Richard Koci Hernandez, what was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
Any time I have a camera in hand and I am in New York City.
Why did you become a photographer?
When I understood the medium’s sheer power to steal moments. Around age 14, I was hooked. It’s an unbelievable, almost unimaginable and extremely powerful prospect for a young man to have a camera and literally stop time forever. I was hooked after my first roll of film, and I still feel the potential and power of the photographic moment every time I make an image. My favorite aspect of photography is that it divorces me from all of my daily problems, I never worry about things like doing the dishes, preparing for class, walking the dogs, or most of the mundane thoughts that are continually crashing the shores of my mind. I get to be released from that torrent and be completely in the moment, having a peak experience where everything is flowing in the right direction, it feels almost like an out-of-body experience.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to say with your pictures?
Words often fail me, and I use photography as my primary voice, so it’s an integral part of my existence. What I want to say with my photography, “I was here, and this is what I saw.” It’s as simple as that. Photography is my daily diary, my daily sketchbook and I’m just trying to quietly and subtly cheat death by leaving a body of photographic work behind.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Roy DeCarava. I have yet to find another photographer whose work moves me to my core. Again, it’s hard to describe in what way because it’s such an internal visual form of communication that often leaves me speechless. I would simply have to say to those reading this they should certainly have a look for themselves.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
“I trust that the creative eye will continue to function, whatever technological innovations may develop.”
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process?
I guess I would describe my “artistic world” as simply an extension of my daily life. I very rarely go out of my way to create. All my acts of creation, if you will, simply flow and are born of the moment. They are glimpses of my daily life, wherever I happen to be or whatever I happen to be doing. I haven’t really thought about why I chose street photography as my main source of visual expression but off the top of my head I would have to say that it was born out of a very strong reaction to looking at the work of other great street photographers and somehow knowing deep inside that was my visual calling.
I believe if I was also to go a little deeper it would probably be a general reaction to my day job, which was photojournalism. As a photojournalist you are not allowed to be anonymous, you really have to shoot pictures and then follow-up with question to the subject, interviews in their simplest form, like what’s your name, etc. But on the street I could be anonymous, floating in the fog of humanity unnoticed, with the power to stop time.
I am indeed extremely fond of black and white photography and while I would love to have a spiritual answer to why I’ve chosen the grayscale as my palate, it’s closer to reality that I actually suck as a color photographer.
Great color photography, that which is not just shooting color for color sake, is extremely difficult and takes a large amount of talent, of which I do not have. The mere act of desaturating the world makes things easier as it distills them down to their essence and essentially allows me to focus intently on the things I care most about, like light, body language, composition and moment. And it’s probably sprinkled with a little nostalgia I would say.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
Deep Blacks. Shadows. Fedoras, grain, scratches and sloppy borders.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
A good pair of shoes, thick skin and patience.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes? Especially keeping in mind the over abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society.
A pure moment.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Everywhere, mostly the work of those who came before me. Currently I’m slowly devouring the retrospective monograph of Gary Winogrand. Very inspiring!
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
An iPhone. Period.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
I like Petapixel.com. It’s quirky and wide-ranging in scope.
What photography book would you recommend?
“The Passionate Photographer: Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great” by Steve Simon.
Why? because I wish I had written it. It’s the truest book on photojournalism I have ever read.
And of course ANY monograph by any professional photographer.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
And if they stop there, then they’ve given up too easily and won’t be able to hack it anyway. (laughs)
If they read that and say “screw you, I can’t live without doing this for the rest of my life”, then they’ll have all they need to succeed.