We are on a DAMN ROLL and we are completely beside ourselves to bring you the incredible, the spectacular and the truly inspirational Gabriela Herman!
Now I - P to the C - personally have been following Gab's work since she blew the net with the Bloggers series way back when. And I have watched her art explode over the years with brilliant captures that stimulate the senses and provoke thought.
Without further ado, let's learn more about the wonderful Gab and her remarkable journey.
Hello Gab! Welcome to the interview.
How have you been?
I’m good, just got back from a trip to LA so right back home now here in New York.
Are there a few exciting things happening in LA?
Mostly social, visiting family and friends. I managed to also do a quick shoot for a project so...yeah.
So let’s start the interview by delving into how you got started taking photos. Your parents, what are their backgrounds?
OK, so my mum is Brazilian and moved to the States after medical school and met my dad through an exchange program - which was in Long Island where my dad grew up.
And yeah, my dad is a lawyer.
So your mum went to medical school and your dad is a lawyer..
Yeah, so no creative types.
OK. So how did you fall into this?
I went to a private school in New England and most of my friends followed the more traditional path of going to college and studying law, medicine, business, etc. I went to Liberal Arts college, I was a psychology major so I never really considered photography to be a career even though I got right into it in high school. Not that it wasn’t a possibility..
Right. So it didn’t stand out?
Yeah. So I went to Brazil after college and that’s really where it all started to fall in place.
You know I did a psychology major because I enjoyed the readings.
Oh yeah. Do tell us more.
So I was living in San Paolo and working a regular job and in the background, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. And it was there that I decided to try and see if I can pursue photography more seriously.
So I quit my job and worked for free as a photographer for 6 months and told everyone in San Paulo that I wanted to work as a photographer. And through that, I ended up going on a trip with this photographer to the north of Brazil which was a really eye-opening experience.
He introduced me to one of the top photographers in Brazil and hooked me up with a job as the lowly studio floor bitch. But yeah that’s how it all started.
So it was there in Brazil where it all happened.
Yeah but I have been doing photography passionately since high school but when I was in Brazil it was like “You know I should really try this”.
So just a little bit more on technical aspects - what is the camera you use?
I have always been from day 1 a Nikon shooter. And you know it’s tricky as here in New York, none of my friends use Nikon; they’re all Canon. So there’s no one that I can borrow lenses from and stuff like that.
Once in a blue moon, I’ll get really excited and go “Oh YAY you’re using Nikon too!”
..but yes, I’ve always been a Nikon girl.
So it’s like that up there. Haha.
Not sure if you read my last interview but I’m an iPhone only kinda guy but that’s more due to convenience. I don’t take photographs for a living so I’ve never had the need to invest in one. But a few of my friends who are into photography are like “I really like your shots man but you’re not a serious photographer with that iPhone”. I personally think that comment is silly because no matter what I use, it’s more about the final result. I can walk, stop and shoot more naturally with an iPhone as it’s always with me. I don’t have to overthink it.
Yeah, It’s not really about the tool..
Back to you. What is the process, of choosing subjects. Well, do you choose a subject or do you choose a project when you take photos?
Depends. Are we talking about my own personal work or paid work?
Good point. Your own personal work..
In my own personal work, I tend to lean more towards portrait kind of work because in my paid work I don’t tend to have a lot of portrait assignments.
So yeah in my own personal work it tends to be more about people but in my paid work it depends on what the project is.
OK. So when you do your own personal work, do you take pictures for yourself because you find it interesting or do you shoot for others, because you think others will think ‘that’s cool’.
Well, that depends if there was a project in mind.
I think a lot of portrait photography is about the relationship between the photographer and subject and what transpires between them, and what happens when you’re collaborating with them.
Right. And the pictures comes out more naturally then.
Next one - do you do a lot of post-editing?
No, not too much. I have actually a certain colour palette in mind that I veer towards and that happens in the light room.
But I don’t do crazy retouches, removing things or multiple layer touchups. I just like cleaning up images up a bit to remove distracting elements.
And that’s something that I noticed immediately in your incredible landing page. The images are very clean, and the images and colours work and blend together nicely.
Did I mention I love the colours? I love the colours Gab!
And yes, I do love my colour.
I’ve seen your site change over the years by the way as I have been following your work since Bloggers blew up.
Yeah, that was my first body of work that was getting recognition.
I remember back then that one version was with a girl by the pool..
..yeah that was me!
That was you! Haha, cool.
I love doing self-portraits and that was during a time when I had a lot of time to do personal work as well.
Magical time! I’ll get back to Bloggers in a second but thought to ask you this obvious question before we completely skim over it: Are you a colour or Black & White girl?
Haha. You know I first started in B&W when I first started with film.
But when I switched to digital, I became a colour girl.
Yeah. I know you do it justice as well.
So let’s get back to Bloggers. How did that one come about?
It was kind of organic. It wasn’t like “I need to start a new project”.
A friend borrowed a camera of mine and I went over to pick it up and at that time she just came out of the shower leaning over the computer with the towel over her head, and I was like “Oh, hold that pose right there while I get my camera..”
And that was the moment I noticed how beautiful the light coming from her laptop was..
That was really late at night or really early in the morning, right?
Yeah, that was in the evening really late at night.
I shot 4 frames and I came home and as soon as I uploaded the shots on my computer I was like “Whoa, there’s totally something happening here..”
That is where I got the idea of shooting more people in a similar fashion.
So that was during the time when blogging was really coming to fore with all these blogs coming out of WordPress. I was reading all the blogs about photography - that was the world I was in.
Right. And that’s when you took the next step and got other subjects..
Yeah. And that’s something I remember a mentor of mine in Brazil said: “The hardest thing about doing a project is starting. But once that’s done, you get into a roll and it moves through different ways and directions.”
Starting it is very hard, but once I got that first shot of my girlfriend for bloggers, the project just came about naturally and I started shooting more and more.
Yes, that was an incredible project.
Speaking of which, you have some other great projects out there.
What about Beetlebung farm - how did that one come about?
That one again was very organic, I didn’t think about it as a project. So I was hanging around with my friend Chris who is a farmer and I was just really fascinated by what people were doing around me. I would volunteer on the farm and stuff. And it was all very fascinating; getting your hands dirty on the soil, getting food prepared..
You know I never shot food that way before. I always thought of it more as shooting it in a studio with lights and all. So it was very natural and felt really comfortable for me during that time. So I just started building a body of work when I was there just for fun.
After a few summers after I built that body of work, that’s when I realised that I had something going.
So you literally have your camera everywhere you go, take pictures where you can, review and reflect until you get to the point - hmm, I could actually hook these up all together here..
Exactly. You know I have a lot of ideas for projects and then I have projects that are just born out of shooting naturally until you see a project collection form.
Yes! Those to me are the best projects because you shoot what comes naturally..
Yeah, because those are the ones that you are passionate about.
Exactly because it comes out naturally. It’s not a project where someone says “You must do this..” Not that I’m saying those don’t work out well, I’m not saying that all. But what I am saying is that those shots that have a natural rhythm, the honesty usually comes out in the pictures.
And by the way, that pig’s head was quite brutal!
Haha. Yeah, that was a bloody sequence in my portfolio book.
That one struck a chord with me. When I was growing up in the Philippines, eating pork was staple, so I was indifferent to those things back then. Now however I can see why it’s confronting; but that’s probably because I’ve been here far longer than I’ve been there.
Anyway, let's get back to you - what I really like about your photographs is your ability to focus on interesting things. So in the Beetlebung portfolio for example, the focus on the main subjects are incredible. When you shoot pictures, do you try to move or rearrange subjects in order to make the shot really stand out? Or do you find yourself leaving things in their natural environment?
Yes, I leave things as organic as I can. I don’t try to meddle things too much nor do I have a stylist to touch things up. I like keeping things as natural as I can.
Yes and that’s what I noticed with a lot of your projects; they come out real natural and look very comfortable in their surroundings. Your latest project The Kids has that too, and I’ll add that the stories in there are such an interesting read - not to mention, the layout, design, photos and audio really adds up to make it the complete package.
And of course, it’s a very personal story.
So I am assuming that Kids was inspired by your own personal story right?
Yes. Kids is definitely the most personal project I could do at this point. You know I can’t say it will be the most personal in my career but definitely is my most personal right now which is what inspired me to do this. So I used the project not only to tell my story but also to meet other people, which turned out to be like therapy.
Right. And I’m assuming it’s a growing collection as well.
Yes, it is.
And is it receiving a lot of coverage?
Yes it has received wonderful press.
Unlike the Bloggers series which got tons of press as soon as I shot it, for the Kids series I was making sure that I had everything together and fully packaged before putting it out there.
Right. And it's a well-packaged product indeed.
And so who inspires you?
That’s so funny because I was talking to a girl this morning about photography stuff and she asked me this very question, and I’ll give you the same answer: “I am definitely inspired by my peers”. I like watching my friends and seeing what they're shooting.
I know some photographers don't like looking at other people’s work; they don’t like being influenced so on and so forth. But I like checking out Tumblr to see what my friends have been shooting. And yeah I do that for people that I follow, that is so inspiring to me.
I used to do that when blogging was becoming a big thing a few years, I would watch what people were putting up. I really take out a lot from all that.
So are there any photographers you have in mind that we should be checking out?
Yes, definitely Ryan Pfluger for portrait work; so beautiful, composition, colour, mood. Basically, everything he posts, I’m like “Damn, he killed it”.
Another person that I quite enjoy is Elinor Carucci.
And favourite people?
Well, my family and I are super-close. I have got a younger brother and sister. When I’m in LA, or when my brother is over here, we hang out a lot together.
And yeah I would do that too with my sister and my mom and dad. Even though they’re divorced, we still get to hang out often, so it’s all cool.
It’s awesome, yeah.
And my mom’s side of the family is HUGE. She’s one of 7 siblings so I have lots of cousins in Brazil which is quite nice.
Oh very nice.
So what get’s Gab up in the morning?
Oh. Well, probably my husband going to work!
Haha. Yeah, I usually travel a lot for work, so then it’s probably the sunrise that gets me up and out shooting.
But when I’m at home and not shooting things, and those are usually slow mornings, I try not to get up too early, haha.
Yeah, me too.
And my final question to wrap up - what should I ask you that I haven't asked you yet?
Oh man, haha.
Well, I guess you touched a lot about my personal projects but we haven’t gone deep into my work.
No, I haven't and that’s a fair point. Let’s get right into it..
Yeah, so my personal projects are very different to what I get hired to do. So it’s more about the travel work, and food work, editorial work for a lot of magazines. I just started shooting for the NY Times this fall, and I’m getting a little bit more portrait work which is great because I do a lot of portrait work in my own personal projects.
Right. So when you shoot portraits for work, it’s easier as it’s something you do anyway.
OK cool. Well, from my perspective this has been an incredible interview Gab. We covered a lot here..
Yeah, it’s been nice to talk to you. It’s good to see that you know a lot of my work. Some people will talk to me but would not have gone through my website so they wouldn't really know my work.
Yeah, that’s because I’ve been following you for a while. Not like a stalker mind you hahaha. But as a fan. You inspire me to lift my game in whatever creative I’m currently into.
Thanks once again Gab, it’s been a pleasure.
Isn’t Gab fab? Not only is her body of work incredible but she is also a great interviewee and person to talk to. Make sure to check out her work here.
For completeness, Gab also sent us a list of people that inspires her:
Please feel free to share your thoughts on the fab Gab, or anything else you would like us to cover below.