“The funny thing is, in that picture of everybody interacting, the only one looking in the camera is Shakira,” says Manny Hernandez, the longtime Miami-based photographer who snapped the picture. “She had a couple of hits in the Latin market, but she never really went to these types of parties where you had some big celebrities in the American market.”
Hernandez has hundreds of photos like that one. Name a person with some kind of fame who has passed through Miami, and chances are Hernandez has that star's picture filed away in one of his many boxes of prints: Gianni Versace, Madonna, Vanilla Ice.
He’s chosen a select few from his collection for Candids Miami, the first in a three-part book series of, well, candid celebrity photos. Hernandez actually has two versions of the above picture: one of everybody smiling for the camera and one of everybody with their guard down, enjoying one another's company. Hernandez had a good reason for choosing the latter.
Hernandez doesn’t know what they were saying, but, apparently, it was hilarious. Trump making people laugh on purpose? Certainly, the shots from Candids are from a bygone era.
“A lot of celebrities are handling their own stuff — I don’t know if they need a photographer anymore,” Hernandez says of the decline of celebrity photography as an industry. “I mean, Kim Kardashian has a hundred million followers. Does she really need People magazine or anybody else?”
Hernandez doesn’t curse modern technology for altering the media landscape, although its overuse does annoy him. He can’t remember the last time he was at a concert where he didn’t see someone recording on their phone, a practice he believes artists should forbid at shows. To someone who made professional photography his craft for many years, the words “free content” are fighting words.
When covering a concert recently, one of his fellow photographers was astounded to hear he shot only 148 pictures on his digital camera. He still operates as if he were shooting on film, even if his camera could hold hundreds of pictures.
“If I can’t get it in 148 shots, I’m really bad at it,” Hernandez says. “If you can’t get it in 1,000 shots, you’re even worse.”
One advantage Hernandez has over the legions of celebrity photographers is a personal connection to the popular subjects, which makes them more comfortable in front of the camera. He recalls the ease of taking Versace’s picture. He parked his car across from the fashion designer's elegant South Beach mansion. When Hernandez caught Versace exiting his home with his boyfriend Antonio D'Amico, he asked if he could snap a picture of the couple, but D'Amico stepped aside.
“'Just take Gianni — he's the star,'" Hernandez recalls D'Amico saying. “He was right."
Candids Miami costs $30 via wynwoodbooks.com.