With the rising sphere of influence that comes as a result of social media and user-generated content dominance comes progression in different kinds of industries. The fashion industry, particularly streetwear, is no exception. One example of this is the rise of street photographers that are popping up left, right and centre. While actively showcasing the use and style of footwear, clothing and accessories, street photography attempts to depict the everyday human condition in normal public spaces that are often urban.
Joel Fernandez is a street portrait photographer whose roots simply started with urban exploration. With the rapid rise of Instagram and the blossoming fashion industry, Joel took to the streets of Montreal to improve his craft. In our exclusive Q&A with Joel, we gather a deep insight into this fresh new aspect of fashion that many brands are now taking full advantage of.
Q: First off, who are your biggest photography inspirations?
JF: My biggest photography inspirations I would have to say are @Tutes, @visualsbypierre, @insighting and my two homies @Victorhernandezm and @Ronxgold. The first three are photographers based out of New York City and have amazing and very inspiring work that ranges from cityscape to fashion. The last two mentioned are my good friends. Victor I have known my whole life and he’s the one who got me into photography and then the homie Ron is a good friend i met through Instagram and have been shooting with since.
Q: Today, there are so many online platforms that allow photographers and other visual artists to get their work to the public and get a start in the industry. How has an app such as Instagram helped you to get where you are today?
JF: Instagram is an amazing tool for photographers and visual artists because it helps you connect with people from all over the world. It has helped me a lot because it has led me to collaborations and to meet amazing people that discovered my work through the app. Also, I was able to meet amazing photographers and thanks to their work I constantly stay inspired.
Q: How did you end up from solely being interested in photography to specializing in street fashion and portrait photography?
JF: I was able to transition from just everyday photography to fashion and portraits thanks to a good friend of mine. He would constantly capturing portraits of me and fellow photographers and that inspired me to evolve as a photographer and start experimenting with fashion and portrait photography.
Q: Many of your photos are taken in very urban settings that feature building exteriors, subway stations, stairwells, rooftops and traffic. How have the city and streets of Montreal in particular influenced how and what you shoot?
JF: Montreal is a beautiful city in general. We don’t have a huge skyline compared to other cities, but its beautiful in its on way. It also has a huge french influence and we can see that in the architecture in certain parts of the city and also in the fashion. I usually just try to meet up with a friend downtown and from there we just explore. I’m just constantly inspired by everything I see around me, so it can be a subway station, rooftop, or just the streets in general.
Montreal is a beautiful city in general. We don’t have a huge skyline compared to other cities, but its beautiful in its on way.
Q: Through your photos, how do you attempt to depict Montreal and its culture for those who don’t know too much about it?
JF: I always attempt to depict my city and its culture just by trying to include a Landmark or something that is unique to Montreal. The old port of Montreal has very unique landmarks and architecture, so I would to showcase that in my picture with my subject.
Q: Favourite spot to shoot in the city?
JF: One of my favourite spots to shoot in Montreal would have to be the Underground. Montreal has very unique subway stations that people from all over the world come to explore and photograph. My favourite stations to shoot would definitely have to be Beaudry and Square Victoria. They both have very unique looks and are beautiful to shoot.
I feel like most of the time my best work comes from the in the moment shots. It seems more natural and the subject doesn’t feel awkward or not comfortable.
Q: How do you decide on the models and subjects you shoot?
JF: When it comes to the subject there isn’t really any particular way I find them. Actually, it is usually the other way around. I have people hit me up that want me to shoot with them and photograph them. In general, the subjects I shoot with are friends I have always hung out with. What usually happens is that I’ll go exploring the city with my homies and we’ll end up shooting.
Q: While shooting, you never direct your subjects to model or pose in a certain way that may not reflect them. Why is that?
JF: I never direct my subject, unless I really have a specific shot in mind because I feel like most of the time, my best work comes from the in the moment shots. It seems more natural and the subject doesn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable. I like when the pictures seem natural and not fake.
Q: How do you bring out the naturalness in the subject and setting when shooting?
JF: The way I try to bring out the naturalness from the subject is just from conversing with them. You really get to know more from your subject and they become more comfortable during the actual shoot.
Q: What do you wish to be doing with photography in 5 years?
JF: I would love to be living off my work, either working for brands or as an independent photographer. I would love to one day have my own media agency where we would offer various services, for example photography, videography and other visual services. Those would be some of my projects for the next 5 years.
Don’t get stuck shooting what everyone else shoots. Always try to think outside the box.
Q: What’s one tip you have for any photographers that are just starting out and are hoping to leap into a similar field of photography?
JF: There’s just one tip I would give to anyone who is just starting would be to explore. Just explore your city. Don’t get stuck shooting what everyone else shoots. Always try to think outside the box.
Q: What is one Montreal clothing or streetwear brand in particular you really love to shoot with?
JF: The one brand in particular I really like shooting with Atelier New Regime. This Montreal brand has been on the come up for some time and is now blowing up. The clothing is comfortable and very unique. It represents the city very well.