“I remember that when I was a child I used to spend hours alone in my room playing with my toys. I also remember that the best part of it was customizing them and creating worlds where they could exist … Now that I am “grownup" I realize that I have never stopped playing and that the only difference is that now I do it with a camera in my hands”
Felix Hernandez is a Mexican photographer and digital artist that creates miniature worlds. For Felix photography is not to portray what exists out there, but to portray what exists inside him.
Photography with scale models is not so different from other areas of photography, but it has its peculiarities. You have to think big, but at the same time, small. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination goes.
How did you discover your passion for art?
I don’t know exactly at which point of my life I discovered my passion for art. But I do know that since I was a little boy (around 5 years old) I loved to create. Back then. you could find me building stuff with “Tente” (I kind of Lego), or making posters with plasticine, or playing with my Playmobil creating my own stories and worlds. Time went by and in my youth, I liked to draw, design and build simple wooden stuff. I guess I have always liked to create things. Also, I have always liked to create stories in my mind. When the time arrived for college, I applied for the career of Industrial Design, but for some reason, I ended in Graphic Design.
While studying Graphic Design I had my first encounter with photography. Back in the days where it was “analogue”. (We used film, no digital). Also, we didn’t use computers, so pretty much, everything was done using your “hands". I think the mix of all that helped me to become in what I’m now - as a professional and as a person.
What is “Dreamphography”?
Dreamphography is the “name” for the “recent” work I’m doing. The mix of many passions and disciplines all at the service of creation: photography, digital art, creating concept art and crafts. Normally I’m inspired by my own dreams, so Dreamphography would be the process of “portraying what exists in me”.
What inspires you?
Almost everything and that’s a blessing and a curse. A blessing because there is always something I want to create. And a curse because I will not have time (in my lifetime) to create everything I want too.
Inspiration comes from movies, books, music, food, situations, fear, other artists, etc. Normally I take those “inspirations” into my dreams (literally while I’m sleeping) and they get mixed with who I really am.
Dreams are a great source to produce ideas, some are crazy and you’ll have to re-interpret them in a way that could be more understandable for the viewers. “Dreams” are like a blender, where you mix reality with fantasy, but most important, they reveal who you are.
This is important for an artist. The work you create has to have something of you in it. That’s what will make it different from the work of others.
Tell us about the process that leads to your unique style, which often mixes extremely realistic miniature worlds with an incredible imagination.
Everything starts with an idea. Normally I grab a general idea from my dreams. Then I start to shape that idea to create a concept. When I have the concept done, I start planning how I will approach it; which parts are going to be done in scale, which is going to be digital, the practical or digital effects, the lighting design, etc. Once I have decided how I’m going to approach the concept, I start working on the models and dioramas, which is the most time-consuming part, however, is the one I most enjoy.
When the complete set is ready I take it into my studio and make the lighting design and some test shots: Trying with different lenses, angles, lighting setups, effects, etc. After that, I shoot for the final images. Once I have the photos, I go into post-production. Normally this is a mix of different software like Photoshop, Capture One, Helicon, etc.
Of course, I have to say that I’m not the first or the only one making this kind of work. Many of the greatest movie scenes that I love have been done with these techniques. Even today, with all the CG. For example Starwars, Blade Runner 2049, BTTF, Pan’s Labyrinth, etc.
I put into every image I create my “style” which is different from the others. It's about the composition, the way of lighting, etc. But most important; the stories I have to tell. The concept is what will make your work ‘unique”. The concept will also affect the way you do things, which will become in “Your Style”.
Your creations combine a broad range of crafts and techniques, such as aging materials to achieve incredibly realistic looks. Do you invent your own techniques? If so, how do you conceive them?
The techniques and processes for creating the scale models and dioramas are really diverse. I have learned a lot from other artists, but there is not a recipe, just guides, tips, and tricks. You have to take all that information and start doing it, and while you are doing it, you will find your own way of doing things. Trial and error is the best way of learning.
What is the role or digital edition in your works?
Digital art is part of my process, just because I enjoy it as well. At present, I try to do more in-camera, but digital manipulation is really important for the kind of work I do. Some things would be just “impossible” to create the way you want them without digital art or in some cases, they would be extremely expensive.
I think that the best results come from the mix of disciplines and techniques.
Most of your pictures include a big dose of humor. How important is it for you and what do you try to achieve with it?
I will not call it humor but sarcasm, which yes, in a way it's a kind of humor but darker!. I guess it’s just a reflection of how I am.
You often incorporate beloved cultural icons, such as Star Wars, Ghostbusters, The Dukes of Hazzard and Back to the Future into your creations, giving them a whole new life. Tell us a bit about this facet of your work.
I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s. Many of these characters, movies, and series influenced me and in the way, I tell stories. I Take some of those iconic characters and reinterpreted them with my own vision. Also, many of my images that aren’t created based directly on an IP are influenced by all these movies and characters I grew up with.
You have also ventured into stop motion animation. What are the challenges and new creative opportunities of this technique?
This is something very recent. I have just started to play around with motion, so there is a whole “new world” to discover!. A lot of new “challenges” or opportunities for telling more complex stories.
You tour the world giving conferences and workshops. What is the importance of divulgation in the life of an artist?
Most of what I know today is thanks to people that shared their knowledge with me and that had inspired me to follow my passion. So I try to do the same with others.
I have found that the more you share the more you receive. Sharing your knowledge and experiences with others is not only gratifying but it’s also a great way to learn!
From a commercial point of view, it’s also part of the way a make a living and a great way to meet new places and people.
What exciting new project should we expect from you in the future?
I have many personal and commercial projects going on which involves some collaborations with other artists I admire, and my incursion in the stop motion world is just the tip of the iceberg that will lead me to tell better and more complete stories.