We spoke with the talented Hollie Fernando about her portraits, her process and her favourite photograph so far.
Hollie Fernando | UNITED KINGDOM
Hi Hollie, thanks for taking the time to have a chat… In your words, please tell us what you do.
I am a freelance portrait photographer, mainly working with musicians and on travel pieces with some personal projects somewhere in the mix. Anything to do with people really.
At what age did you start photographing and what was it that sparked this passion?
I first picked up a camera around the age of 14 after finding a box of my Dad’s equipment from the 70s in the loft during a clear out. I spent that next summer teaching myself how to use film on an old Praktica. I begged to change schools to study it properly for my A-Levels; My school at the time didn’t offer it as a course. Once I got to college to study analogue photography, I spent every spare second I had in the darkrooms and this confirmed that taking photos was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What gets you up in the morning? And what’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Haha, as soon as I wake up I remember my mounting to-do list and there’s no way I can go back to snoozing, I feel too guilty! On an average day, the first thing I do is brew a fresh coffee, boil an egg and read the news.
What is it about photographing that you love the most?
I love that it never gets boring. I have a very short attention span with most things and would go nuts if I had a 9-5 routine for years on end. I am incredibly grateful that every job for me is different. I love the opportunities it gives me to live my perfect life and be able to make a living from it. I love that it’s enabled me to meet people that I wouldn’t necessarily have met otherwise!
Film or digital?
What camera and lens/es do you use?
My main guy at the moment is a Mamiya RZ67 with either 110/90 lens for 120mm. A Contax G2 or Nikon FA for my 35mm work. I am currently babysitting a Pentax 67 too and am already in love, so one of these dudes might be joining the family soon…
What are three things that inspire you?
Paintings, music and people passionate about their work.
What is the first rule in photography for you?
What is your favourite shot so far? And what is the story behind it?
I think my ‘Thailand Train Journey’, which is interesting to me as it has no people in it, but I think it’s because of the moment. I went on this trip about 4 years ago as an escape/breather from photography after quitting a job I had started to feel suffocated in. It was the only time I started to question whether I wanted to do this forever, but it was down to a complete lack of inspiration in my life at the time from having a 9-5 job at a desk (it was photography related, but not my type of photography).
I was out there for a few months not planning a body of work from the trip at all, but just taking the odd snap at times I was having a ‘re-evaluating life moment’ and this train ride was one of them.
The story goes: A friend (that I had made just a few days previous in Bangkok) and I spontaneously decided to jump on the last train out of the city to the North. We were so excited to swap Bangkok with its smog and lady-boys for the jungle up North that we took the last seats in 3rd class without hesitation. (Usually, on these 12-14 hour train journeys through the night, you would book in advance and make sure you got a ‘sleeper ticket’, which meant your seat turned into a little bed when you wanted to sleep). Once the train had gained a bit of speed, bringing bugs and cold wind through the massive open windows and straight into our faces, we found there was actually no comfortable position in our hard and upright seats our mistake dawned on us.
It’s hilarious looking back, it was absolutely freezing, I ended up putting on every layer of clothing I had in my backpack. I had to cross a lot of friendship boundaries very fast with my brand new friend and snuggle up with her for warmth. We forgot to bring snacks and ration-shared a bag of Doritos, the only food we had between us. The hardest part was holding onto my piss for as long as I could so I didn’t have to face the hole-to-track loo full of colourful spiders. (The numerous Chang’s at a street stall outside the station pre-journey wasn’t such a great idea after all). But as the sun rose at 5 am, when we were speeding through the rolling hills of the jungle and everyone else was tucked away in their silly little beds; we were the ones hanging off railings and taking photos in between carriages having the best time. I took this photo very quickly when we were hurtling ’round a bend and people always ask me how I lined the tree up perfectly with the hill, but I didn’t even know I had done this at the time. It really is one of the happiest moments of my life to date.
Do you often plan shots or do you prefer to document? What is your process?
This totally depends on what it is I’m shooting. I will meticulously plan my commissioned music work as I like to link in with the lyrics and with the band. This also goes for my personal work inspired by old paintings I love, where I like to reference details/locations/colours etc. But when I’m travelling I never plan shots, only routes and places I’d like to see. When you’re on the road you will always find that the best moments happen in unplanned situations when you’ve gotten lost or something doesn’t work out how you thought it would in the first place. Real life!
Three things you couldn’t live without?
Hollie Fernando | @holliefernando
London, United Kingdom