More than a century ago, in New York City, Paul Strand began creating some of the earliest candid street photography. His goal was to capture people as they act in public, unaware of the observing eye. Street photographers have followed suit ever since, adopting every emerging technology available to minimize or conceal the barrier between photographer and subject.
Today, “I finally feel like my eye is a camera,” says Richard Koci Hernandez, an Emmy award-winning multimedia producer, photojournalist and professor of New Media. Earlier this year, Hernandez, known for his popular @koci Instagram account featuring noir-style street photos taken with an iPhone, entered Google’s #ifihadglass competition. He won, and began posting his wearable camera-made photos to his new account, @koci_glass.
Hernandez spoke to LightBox about his work, the newest tool in his arsenal and what it all means for the future of street photography. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.
You’ve been doing street photography for 25 years. Tell me about your process.
Street photography for me is not so much about going out to hunt for pictures, but allowing them to come to me in my daily life. And to be honest, I’ve never been without a camera on hand ever since I first picked one up at 14. There’s something magical about it. I’m just the vessel, the conduit through which this or that photograph wants to speak.
Take me through the progression of cameras you’ve used.
My first camera was a Minolta range finder, then a Nikon FM2, then I went through the iterations of professional cameras. But I was always fascinated by alternate forms of cameras. I used to use a big 4×5 camera, and then I played around with some medium formats and then moved into plastic and toy cameras. I've also used a really huge 20 x 24 Polaroid Land Camera.
When digital cameras came along, I wasn't a big fan. But I was a photojournalist and they were convenient for work. It was the same with the iPhone. The first version of the iPhone was great for news photography, which is why I first started using them. But I never incorporated it into my street photography. I didn't feel the quality was quite there yet.