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Interview With Mexican-Canadian Photographer Sandra Hernandez

Sandra Hernandez is a Mexican-Canadian street photographer. Today we will get to know her opinion on street photography. For her, street photography discovers what was happening with its people and their daily lives. Let us carry on the discussion of street photography with her.

Thank you for joining us here today! could you please introduce yourself?

Thank you for joining us here today! could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Sandra Hernández. I’m a Mexican-Canadian architect and photographer. A camera travels with me since I was 6 years old but I started doing it professionally in 2015. My work ranges from street photography to documentary, and it’s inspired by my passion and curiosity for urban life and its daily events. I’m an Official Fujifilm Ambassador (X-Photographer) and founder of Observadores Urbanos (Urban Observers), a platform whose mission is to promote and spread Spanish-speaking street photography. I divide my time between Mexico and Quebec when I’m not traveling for a project.

What first drew you to street photography—and how did you discover it? 

I moved to Quebec City almost 15 years ago. In my attempt to integrate and get to know my new country better, I started going out with my camera to walk the streets and discover what was happening with its people and their daily lives. At first, I was photographing architecture and landscapes but little by little I became more interested in the human factor. So I decided to become an anonymous observer, a bystander, and spontaneously capture what was happening in my new city. Later I learned that there was already a photographic genre that was dedicated to that and it was there where I began to study it and look for inspiration.

Please share some of your memories of art & street photography?

The moment when I discovered that what I instinctively did with my camera on my walks through the streets of Quebec was called street photography has been decisive in my life as a photographer. That simple fact opened an immense panorama for me and sparked my passion for this type of photography.

What makes street photography so special for you?

Street photography is my way of decoding the world and “making mine” the places where I am. This type of photography has taught me to observe more consciously and to discover that conscious observation humanizes.

When did you start shooting and how did this love for photography happen?

I had my first camera at six years old. From there a camera has always accompanied me. However, I became aware of my love for photography until many years later, when I moved to Quebec, Canada, almost 15 years ago. During my years in Canada, I started to go outside to take photographs as I explained previously. I didn't have much time for it because I was focused on integrating myself into my new country, but little by little I was deepening my photographic practice. In 2014, I moved to Bogotá, Colombia, and that's where I deliberately did my first street photography exercises. After my stay in Colombia, ready to return to Canada, I had the idea of ​​taking a gap year to dedicate to the three things I like to do the most: travel, take photos and write. So I left for a few months in India where I was traveling alone through different cities and this trip changed my life. At the end of this sabbatical year, I realized that I did not want to return to the life I had and there began a new adventure for me: my career as a professional photographer.

How does black and white vs color play into your work?

Although I like working on both versions, I have a particular taste for color that becomes evident when taking a tour of my portfolio. I use black and white for very particular images, either to focus attention on a subject by eliminating color distraction or to add drama to a capture.

What was the proudest moment in your photography career so far?

Photography has brought me many joys and satisfactions and I’m very grateful for that. On the one hand, it has given me the opportunity to meet fascinating people with whom I have become friends. On the other hand, I have had the pleasure of seeing my work published in different international media (digital and print), of being a finalist in renowned photography contests and of participating in different individual and group exhibitions around the world. Last year I won a contest that allowed me to do a photographic residency in France and it has been one of the best experiences of my life.

What is a good photograph for you?

For me, a good photograph is one that shakes us in a certain way, one that awakens in us a mixture of curiosity and wonder. I think a good photograph raises more questions than answers and I find that fascinating.

What are some of your favorite books on street photography?

Although there are many books on street photography that seem very good to me, there are others that do not necessarily cover this subject but have greatly influenced my photographic practice. The list is long so I will only mention a few:

  • Los privilegios de la vista (The Privileges of Sight), by Octavio Paz

  • Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on Street Photography and the Poetic Image

  • The Americans, by Robert Frank

  • Maravillas que son, sombras que fueron (Wonders That Are, Shadows That Were), by Carlos Monsiváis

What are your thoughts on working on single images versus projects?

For me, these are two different approaches, each with its rewards. I consider that working on a project requires a more rigorous and organized procedure and that working on individual images allows us to be more instinctive since in a project we have to think of each shot as part of a whole, while an individual image is the whole per se.

When I started taking photography I was inclined towards individual images because in a certain way they gave me more freedom, but recently I have started to feel a greater interest in projects because of the narrative that they allow us (and that would hardly be achieved with just one image).

When you are out shooting—how much of it is instinctual versus planned?

I think I am a combination of both. Before going out to take photos I like to plan and think about what I’m looking for. Once on the street, I follow my instincts trying to not lose sight of my goals.

Who are some of your favorite classic photographers, and how did they influence you?

I grew up in a country that has been the cradle of great photographers like Lola and Manuel Álvarez Bravo or Graciela Iturbide. For me, their work is a constant source of inspiration because they have managed to reach the marrow of a country full of contrasts and contradictions, a country where beauty, humor, and sometimes horror coexist in an almost natural order.

Apart from photography, what are your interests and hobbies?

I’m a runner and a yogini. I LOVE to travel, read, and write. 

The Street Photo Collective wants to thank you once again for this interview. Do you have some tips for budding street photographers?

Don’t stop, keep going. Trust and enjoy the process. 

Sandra Hernandez, interviewed by Street Photo Collective

Note: Sandra Hernandez was an International Photography Awards (IPA) - Honorable Mention (2016 and 2019)

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