When you live in L.A., you're bound to rub elbows with celebrities often. Just ask photographer Duane Fernandez who has shot A-list stars like Jamie Foxx, Taylor Swift, and more. We recently caught up with the Californian who tells us how shooting analogue keeps him grounded in Hollywood's hyped-up hills.
NAME: Duane Fernandez
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
1. Hi, Duane. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Professionally speaking, I’m a photographer and marketing consultant. I like to solve problems and create systems. I started a thing called Left Field Project over ten years ago and it’s basically my personal quest to understand people, success and happiness. I find human beings very interesting. I like talking to people and hearing stories. I collect media of all different shapes and sizes. I like notebooks.
2. Why do you still shoot analogue?
“Why do I still shoot digital?” would be a more entertaining question! Analogue is everything to me. From audio to visual. To answer the question, I would say because it’s the foundation, core and essence of photography. It’s a reflex. It’s like breathing.
3. What photographic equipment (cameras, films, and accessories) do you usually have in your bag?
Cameras: Hasselblad D40, Nikon D4, Lomography Colorsplash x Staple Design, Diana F+ with Instant Back, Fuji Instax Wide 210 Instant and the Diana Baby 110. Film: The X-Pro Chrome 100 35mm is my favorite, I’m playing around with the Redscale Negative Lobster 200 right now on the Diana Baby 110. I like the Color Negative 110 film, too.
4. Share a trick of yours that will always result to a great photo.
My favorite trick is to shoot from the hip. I know it’s a golden rule of Lomography, but it’s a golden rule for a reason. That seems like a cop out, so I’ll say if you’re shooting portraits, find a window and use it. Whether you use it as a light box, or for reflections or you shoot through it and use it as a filter. Find a window, they always add great depth to your photos.
5. Which photographers influence your work?
I think I’ve been most influenced by Taylor Steele, a surf photographer. What influenced me most is his ability to tell a story about an environment through candid shots of people and spaces – all while capturing incredible surfing. Also, the Malloy Brothers – Brendan and Emmett. As far as photographers that I admire that don’t necessarily influence my work, I would say Mario Testino – his work is absolutely beautiful. I like portraits by Annie Leibovitz. Steven Meisel’s work photos are insane, I love them.
6. Who/what are your favorite subjects? When/where do you feel most inspired?
I’m most inspired by urban landscapes, from the people walking on the street to a distressed brick wall. I love the all the accidental lines of a city and that we all see them differently. Specifically, my favorite subjects are creative people, they have a uniqueness about them that is apparent in every photo.
7. You have an “Inventory” project on Zooey Deschanel’s site, Hello Giggles, and have also photographed several other celebrities. Who rates as the most interesting you’ve shot?
I recently photographed Tavi Gevinson and that was brilliant. She’s someone I truly admire, and that’s an interesting statement since she’s only 16 years old. I know she will continue making this world a better place, and I’m thankful for that. During our interview, I asked her what she admired most about Jay-Z and she said, “How thoughtfully he considers his role as both an artist and someone with influence. How he doesn’t leave it all up to intuition, he also puts a lot of work and thought into what he’s creating.” Those are all the same reasons I admire Tavi.
8. Describe your first memory as if it were a still photograph.
My first memory ever?! I was just recently talking about the first Christmas I really remember. If it were a still photograph, it would’ve been shot on Lomography Redscale XR 50-200. A Christmas tree on the right of the frame with me in the center buried in wrapping paper playing with my brother’s Star Wars Millennium Falcon. A mantle in the background with candles and picture frames. I had a sweet of-the-era bowl haircut, and was wearing a red sweater and blue corduroy pants.
9. If you could hang as a camera around anyone’s neck, who would that someone be?
My adult sensibilities say Barack Obama. But I think Lady Gaga would be interesting.
10. If you could no longer see, what’s one image you’d like burned in your mind?
Would it be the only image I would see forever, like wall paper in my brain? It would be hard to imagine anything else ever again. So maybe I’d want something serene and peaceful with an infinite view. A photo taken from atop the waterfalls in Kauai over the valley and into the ocean. Or to play the game properly, a photo booth photograph from the first night I met my lovely wife—it’s our first photo together. I know it’s cheesy, but I can’t help it. I’m a hopeless romantic.
11. The strangest, funniest, hands-down greatest, or most “unusual” photographic/Lomographic encounter that you have ever had.
One event comes to mind, I was shooting a Slipknot show a few years back and being situated between 10,000+ eagerly awaiting fans and the stage made for a tense situation. There was about four feet between the stage and the mob of Slipknot supports. (Who were all chanting “6-6-6-Slipknot” by the way.) It was intermission and the fans couldn’t wait for the large red velvet curtain to drop. Honestly, I couldn’t either. Crowd surfers were being dropped over the barricade on top of us. People were throwing clothes, shoes, coins, beer towards the stage. I held my position an inch away from the center mic as nickels and quarters were pelting our backs. I waited. The lights went out and everyone went absolutely insane. After just a few minutes we were escorted out by the Slipknot personal security team, they were concerned for our safety. That has never happened at any other show. It was exciting and I captured some truly amazing photographs that night.
12. What’s coming up on the horizon? New projects? What’s in the works and what’s on your mind?
I’m trying to finish my first book this spring, which is part of Left Field Project. It will feature a series of portraits and interview and photographs. There always seems to be a handful of fun projects on the horizon, and for that I’m very grateful.
Visit Parks Fernandez to find out more about the artist.