Sophia Hernandez: Creative Photography as a Coping Method

All images by Sophia Hernandez. Used with permission.

“Me as a photographer: all over the place.” says Sophia Hernandez. “I’m still finding myself, but I’m enjoying the interesting ride. I get really down if I go even two days without taking a photo, so I embrace photography as best I can by exploring as much as I can.”

Sophia has been shooting since she was five years ago and embraced little plastic, disposable cameras for years until she was 17 and got a real one. It was always for fun though–and even into today it still is to some degree. Because she’s been shooting for this long, she’s been able to build up quite a bit of creativity in her palette.

When Sophia pitched herself and her work, we were very drawn to her use of creative coloring and objects in scenes that she created herself. She plans on keeping it going for a while–and it all started as a coping method.

 

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Phoblographer: Talk to us about how you got into photography.

Sophia: I got my first camera on my 5th birthday. It was a 35mm Barbie Kodak, shaped like a spy camera. That really got me pumped. I don’t know what happened to that camera, but I continued to use disposable cameras and super cheap point and shoots until my 17th birthday. A couple who used to come into the restaurant where I worked at the time surprised me with my first real SLR, a Nikon (##). Since then I fell in love with the analogue process. It was also the time I realized that photography was to stick with me – I’m just not right if I don’t photograph something every day.

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Phoblographer: Your work is really a myriad of stuff. But your artistic, creative work comprises of a lot of items against a plain background with very specific color use. What made you want to get into doing this type of stuff?

Sophia: Part of my day job involves product photography. After a while I got really bored shooting similar images against a white backdrop, so I started to incorporate shapes, colors, and various lighting setups to make those products more interesting. I found myself having a lot of fun with that challenge and knew I could do a lot more, especially with objects of my choosing.

Since I couldn’t actually use most of those images anywhere, I talked my boss into letting me use the studio for an hour a day for personal work. And the still life series was born.

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Phoblographer: How do you think that using photography as a coping method translated into you doing this type of work? Many photographers use the format as a way to cope too; but your work is much different from many others I’ve interviewed.

Sophia: I’ve used photography as a coping method since I can remember, so a lot of my previous work was very dark. But I came to discover that it doesn’t all have to be doom and gloom. I should make work that I want around to make myself and others feel good and happy. Bright colors, a sense of humor, and effective lighting definitely do that for me.

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Having my two kids and seeing what kind of fun things they’re in to also reminds me to enjoy life. I’d rather expose people to artwork that reflects that.

Phoblographer: What time of the day or night do you usually feel the most creative? Think there are any specific reasons for that?

Sohpia: The morning is definitely the time I feel most creative. Nothing beats an early morning of quiet time with a cup of coffee. I especially came to appreciate that time after entering motherhood haha. It feels good to get the juices running early and keep the momentum of productivity for the rest of the day.

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Phoblographer: So how do you go about choosing items, colors and building the scenes? What motivates your specific choices and what do you typically try to express in your work?

Sophia: I choose my objects simply by what immediately attracts my attention. I use my daughter’s toys, cheap items I find in various stores, and whatever I see lying around the house, office, or outdoors. I try to be as resourceful as possible. No shoot has cost me over $4. From there, I use colors that flatter the subject. I’m really into the pop art fashion photography style and a good use of pastels. Building the scenes come to mind almost as soon as I know the item I’m going to photograph. I’ll see something and think, oh it’d be funny if this thing was doing that. It’s weird. Not much else has come to me so quickly.

“It’s never been about the gear, but taking the time to figure out what you have to best accommodate what you’re trying to do.”

The real challenge is getting most of what I see in camera. Since I only have an hour to work with these, the process has to be as efficient as possible. It’s great practice. I’m just trying to spread warmth and positivity in a creative and simple way. When I see people smile and chuckle at my work, I know the message was clear and successful. I only have my family to thank for the motivation.

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Phoblographer: How do you see this series evolving over time?

Sophia: I want to start adding more elements to the scenes, ideally things that I can make by hand. I love arts and crafts. There’s so much you can do with construction paper alone! Also, food. I want to try a lot with food. Oh, and lots of pattern play.

Phoblographer: What typically influences you in your work? What’s the process like for you? Do you storyboard or have a notebook where you keep ideas?

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Sophia: Post-It notes are where I keep all my ideas. I’ve tried using notebooks and I’ll fill out a page or two and I go back to Post-Its. They’re everywhere. On my desk, in all my notebooks, in my backpacks, in the car… it’s kind of silly. I don’t really brew on any ideas when it comes to this series. For more complicated shoots, especially ones that involve people, I do plan ahead. But this, something will come to mind, I write it on a Post-It, or poorly sketch it out on a Post-It, and I make sure it gets done.

Inspiration comes from all around: contemporary photographers, fashion designers, cartoons, Mexican Folk art, books, confetti cake, waffles…pretty much anything, really.

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Phoblographer: Talk to us about the gear that you use. How do you feel it helps you get your creative vision across?

Sophia: I’m currently using Canon Rebel s, a T3i and T5i. I have few prime lenses, but lately I’ve been lazy and using the kit lens. It’s never been about the gear, but taking the time to figure out what you have to best accommodate what you’re trying to do. And I’m not doing commercial composite photography, so who cares. Do what works for you.

However, I do have my eye on a 7D. If anyone’s selling a used one, holler!

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