Richard Koci Hernandez is a national Emmy award winning video and multimedia producer. He has worked as a photographer at the San Jose Mercury News for 15 years. His work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times and international magazines, including Stern.
In 2008, Richard was awarded a national Emmy award for the New Approaches to Documentary category for his work on the Mercury News video entitled, Uprooted. In 2003, Richard was the recipient of the James K. Batten Knight Ridder Excellence Award. His work for the Mercury News has earned him two Pulitzer Prize nominations. His photography and multimedia work has won numerous awards on the national and regional level, including two Emmy nominations. Richard was named deputy director of photography and multimedia after spearheading the creation of MercuryNewsPhoto.com.
Richard also runs the very popular online journalism blog Multimediashooter.com. He has taught multimedia workshops for Stanford University, National Press Photographers Association, The Southern Short Course, National Association for Hispanic Journalists and National Association for Black Journalists. He has lectured at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Stanford University. Koci-Hernandez is a San Francisco State University journalism graduate, where he has been a guest instructor. Koci Hernandez is currently a visiting Fellow at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism supported by a Ford Foundation grant to produce digital news sites for San Francisco Bay Area communities.
Are you a big advocate of iPhone and the revolution in photography that is surrounding the device and the apps being created for it?
“I'm an advocate of anything that pushes people to be more creative, to take more photographs and to have fun.”
I'm an advocate of anything that pushes people to be more creative, to take more photographs and to have fun. I think that the iPhone and other mobile devices are absolutely fertile ground for experimentation and that's really what I am an advocate for. The iPhone is just a tool and tomorrow there will be another tool to me what's most exciting is the community that’s happening around photography.
As opposed to the traditional chalk-a-plan studio work, is shooting with a phone a little more fun and spontaneous?
“I think the fun part of the iPhone is the spontaneity in sharing images.”
Oh I wouldn't say that shooting specifically with an iPhone is more fun and spontaneous. I've had many fun and spontaneous moments with film cameras like the Lomo and the Holga. I think the fun part of the iPhone is the spontaneity in sharing images. It revolves around a device that is connected with instant share-ability. The shooting is the same whatever device, but the most exciting aspect is how fast you can receive feedback.
What is your workflow on the iPhone? How did you develop your passion for iPhone photography and when did this realization happen?
“I like my images to have just a hint of nostalgia, a bit of the old world, this digital artifact as being a real print.”
My workflow on the iPhone is basically this: I shoot in Hipstamatic -almost always in black-and-white - and I tend to shoot a lot of pictures. At the end of the day I'll go through my camera roll and edit the images that I find particularly interesting. In terms of post-processing, I happen to have, what we call in in the darkroom, a heavy-hand, meaning I like to make my pictures a little darker, which generally means post processing in an app like Filterstorm. Another part of my workflow involves trying to make my images have this feeling like you just picked up this image you found in the gutter and it's been run over by 20 cars. I like my images to have just a hint of nostalgia, a bit of the old world, this digital artifact as being a real print.
What are you favourite subjects? What are you inspired by?
“My favorite subjects are certainly subjects that I would want to sit down and have a deep conversation with.”
My favorite subjects are certainly subjects that I would want to sit down and have a deep conversation with. Specifically, I love street photography. It’s my passion and what inspires me. Men in hats are a favorite subject of my mine. Generally, I'm inspired by the moment. It can be a person or situation or light or a composition or something that I'm instantaneously inspired by and I'm drawn to it and in that instant I need to take a picture. So I think that's really what inspires me is other people and moments as I am experiencing them.
Are there any particular themes that weave through your work?
“Ultimately, I would say mystery is my main theme.”
I have a strong Noir theme. Ultimately, I would say mystery is my main theme. I haven't put the pieces together of why I'm photographing and why I’m drawn to what I'm drawn to. My entire process is a mystery to even me. I’m generally reacting on instinct. I’m also very comfortable with this and I think that when people experience my work they're seeing and experiencing a bit of this personal ‘searching.’ It’s a dark mystery, a feeling that there's something in the shadows waiting to reveal itself and it's not necessarily depressing, many times what's lurking in the dark is light.
From faking a yawn or an animated phone call, you resort to many measures to capture your subjects candidly. Tell us about few of the tricks you use in your trade.
You’ve just given away my two best tricks! I’ve even given it a name, a Yawn-o-graph. I’m really just trying to find the best ways to blend-in and go unnoticed. I also wait at a lot of bus stops never intending to board the bus, but just to wait with people and get close to them. I also always wear headphones, because nobody pays attention to you if you have headphones on.
How do you manage to get so close to your subjects without stepping on their toes?
As a photographer, I try to put myself in a situation where people are used to being close to other people, like a on a street corner or waiting for a bus. It's during those situations when I'm able to move really close to people and almost step on their toes because people expect others to be close.
Do you have a digital workflow system to sort your images, if so what is it?
No, I’m a simple guy, I like to shoot and edit right on the phone.
What is a typical day assignment with Richard Koci Hernandez?
On assignment with me, means lots and lots of walking so bring a good pair of shoes. There will also be lots of caffeine consumed.
“On assignment with me, means lots and lots of walking so bring a good pair of shoes.”
What cameras, equipment and applications do you use?
Way too many, but I’ll name a few favorites. Obviously my iPhone, but I also love my 5D and my old school film cameras the Holga and Polaroid. I like fixed prime lenses so the 50mm 1.2 is my absolute favorite. My favorite iPhone apps are, Hipstamatic, Filterstorm, Scratchcam, and Lomob.
Describe journalism and phone photography as a medium in it. Is it (phone photography) being taken seriously by the art and photo establishments?
“Soon, we won't even define an image by the tools used to create the image.”
I actually think thinking of iPhoneography as a separate medium is passe in the sense that I don't think the art and photo establishment care anymore whether the image was shot on an iPhone or not. At first it was a novelty, but people soon realised it was just photography. I'm happy to say it was quickly embraced and brought into the fold of photography. Soon, we won't even define an image by the tools used to create the image.
Has the advent of online journalism made you more successful and widely known than probably even Pulitzer nominations and an Emmy made you?
The explosion social photography-the idea of shooting an image and instantly sharing that image with a community on a social network - has certainly brought me more attention, assignments and opportunities than the traditional accolades of a of my profession. I’m honored and grateful of course!
“Photography, for me, is about honoring the impulse to make an image, no matter what.”
Is there something you always ask yourself or think just before you press the shutter button?
I don’t think, I just shoot. I react on impulse. I’m a very reactionary image-maker. When my head and heart scream shoot, I shoot. Photography, for me, is about honoring the impulse to make an image, no matter what.
What is one last impression you want to leave in your photos?
The last impression I want to leave in my photos is that there is something more. I would love for someone to look at the picture and go this isn't the whole story, there’s something else here, what it is and to leave that mystery in their head. That's what I love about photography. Those are the kinds of pictures that I respond to, so I would love to be able to one day create that feeling.
Do you have any tips for those looking for advice from recognised photographers?
Be a student of LIGHT, it’s the holy grail of photography.
Don’t worry about the tools or the platform, the elements of good photography are eternal and will survive any technological disruption.
“Be a student of LIGHT, it’s the holy grail of photography.”
Where can we hear more from you or see more of your work?
@koci on Instagram