The Mexican photographer Felix Hernandez transformed frustration into playful and dreamy works of art.
Sometimes frustration leads to creativity. That happened to Mexican photographer Félix Hernández. He used to work as a graphic designer, developing concepts for ad campaigns, but since he didn't have the proper media to develop these ideas (he was very bad at drawing), he decided to take his camera and create amazing miniature worlds.
It was 12 years ago when he started in professional photography, but it was just 3 years ago when he found that he could create incredible scenes using toys and scale models from his and his son's collections, calling these "Dreamphography." "Photography, along with digital edition, was the perfect combination for these ideas to come alive. I thought about something and I was able to produce it," Felix says.
The photographer, who has developed creative projects for national and international brands like Audi Germany and Middle East, Volkswagen, Nickelodeon, Wilson, and Mattel, agrees that he is still a child inside, always experimenting, trying new things, and also doing a self-exploration on how to improve on what he enjoys doing. "I've always had this curiosity and this enjoyment of playing. I'm still a child, I keep on playing, but now I have a camera in my hands to share the games I like with the rest of the world".
He remembers that, when he was a child, he was a little bit of a nerd. He enjoyed being alone, creating his own universes and stories, and having total control of it. Now, in a small space at his house, the photographer creates the stages where you can find Star Wars scenes, cars abandoned in the desert, or fantastic scenes that seem to be stills from popular films. The first Star Wars film (Episode 4) was the one that changed the way he understood this kind of fantasy. He learned that some of the scenes were built with toys, and in his young mind he understood that it was a combination of real humans and small recreations with scale models to tell stories.
"In my childhood, I used normal, everyday stuff to recreate scenery, to reinterpret things. My bed was like the desert, I used to wrinkle my bedsheets to make it look like a desert; the rug was the sea, so I put some boats on it; and the bookshelf was a mountain," states the photographer who lives in Cancún, Mexico.
Dreams as raw material
Nowadays, Felix uses dreams as an inspiration to get ideas. It's not like having a formula, but more like a strategy to make them something tangible. The creative process starts when he saturates his mind with information that comes from reading, researching, watching films, listening to music, and after that he programs his brain to have a dream that mixes all these ideas. "The brain becomes a blender with all this information, adding also my fears, desires, and experiences from my daily life, and crazy things come out of these dreams", he says.
Then, he transforms all these oneiric images into real things, by getting the elements and then building the scenes. Some of these take only one day, but others might take even a month. He also adds elements like snow, dust, rain, or smoke, which are created while shooting the scene. Afterwards, the photo is produced digitally in order to add a fantasy element that shakes the viewer's perception.
Felix says he has lived different experiences inside each of the scenes he has created. For example, when recreating scenes with Star Wars' Snow Troopers, he first poses in front of a mirror, imagines himself in the environment, and strikes a pose that later his characters will have, in order to make it look more natural. "I always think each scene is real. I live them and make them as real as possible. It is a symbolic representation of what I'm going through or what I've lived."
But what's behind the door?
Felix tells part of his own story with his photographs. Sometimes it's just a hint, like in The Wardrobe, which is a door in the middle of nowhere that invites the viewer to develop their own fantasy stories.
"The closet is a door to another world. The important thing is not what's behind it, but where it leads you. This image is an invitation so that everyone discovers their own fantastic world, to be brave and go through the door, and everybody will have a very different meaning. After crossing the door, you'll go to this place where everything is possible, where you can find what you are looking for, where you can meet someone you haven't seen in a while, where you feel safe and calm, or something where you can escape".
Felix has also been judge at the Handam International Photography Awards (HIPA) in Dubai as well in the Art Directors Club of New York (ADC Awards). He gives conferences and workshops around the world, webinars with Adobe Latin America and online tutorials with Domestika.