East Coast energy
Marco Hernandez is a documentary photographer hailing from Staten Island. His photos capture the gritty and raw skateboard culture that is unique to the East Coast of the US, and the sense of grittiness and displacement that’s part of the fabric of New York City’s most isolated borough. His subjects extend beyond skateboarding and provide a glimpses into the essence of youth through music, tattoos and other rite of passage activities that fill time and shape identity on the route to adulthood.
Evan Goodfellow: So how did you get into photography?
Marco Hernandez: I got into photography at the age of nineteen, it just made sense for me to just go for it and start shooting, I’ve been obsessed with skate photos since I was in middle school and I always appreciated it. My sister had a film camera that she had used in college and it was just collecting dust, so I just picked it up and started running, here we are five years later and I am still shooting and loving it.
Evan: What are your favourite projects to work on these days? Zines or personal?
Marco: I usually do a lot of zines, but this year I am working on a personal project and would like to have it published and sold internationally. Zines are always going to be my favourite to work on, because it’s cheap and easy to make.
Evan: What was growing up and skating in Staten Island like?
Marco: Staten Island was pretty fun growing up, it’s a suburb so it’s easy to get away with skating school yards and closed storefronts. I used to live by this restaurant that had a parking lot with some spots, everyday I would go and just spend so much time skating there, my first kiss was there, and also my first beer [laughs]. This pizzeria by the spot would give us all the food on display at the end of the night so that was always something to look forward to. On weekends there was a lot of punk shows so it just became a routine, go to school, go skating, go to a show right after and just push fools around. I guess it has shaped me into who I am today.
“I used to live by this restaurant that had a parking lot, every day I would go and just spend so much time skating there, my first kiss was there, and also my first beer.”
Photography Marco Hernandez
Evan: Do you think East Coast skating has affected your photography, if so how?
Marco: Of course, the rawness of the culture here is what inspires me to be honest. I like the “I have to have it now” mentality the people in New York City have. There is no hopping in a car and driving around to spots you see online or in videos, it’s all about lugging all your shit into one bag and skating around in traffic looking for the next thing to shoot, and it’s a lot of fun doing it.
Evan: Who were some of your favourite skaters growing up?
Marco: Mark Gonzales, Ed Templeton, Jason Dill, Eric Koston, Gino Iannucci, Dylan Reider (RIP). That is just the tip of the iceberg.
Evan: Who got you into photography? Who have you looked up to?
Marco: Ed Templeton, Atiba Jefferson, Phil Jackson, Brad Westcott, Tobin Yelland, Glen E. Friedman, Greg Hunt. Mike O’Meally, Ryan Allan, a lot of these people I idolised and now are some of my good friends.
Evan: Like skateboarding, photography can be a tough business. How do you keep things in perspective and not lose heart?
Marco: It is a very competitive industry, there’s always ups and downs and that’s what makes it difficult to get a steady income from photography. If you have ambition and a little bit of patience it’s well worth the rocky road, there have been times where I lose sight, but in the end when I have a physical copy of my work in my hand, or when I am at a gallery with my photos covering the walls and surrounded by people who care about your vision, it makes it all worth it. I think people need to just prepare themselves and realise there really is not a lot of money behind it. You get what you put in.
Evan: Can you recommend some of your favourite places in the city, either bars, restaurants, places to visit?
1. Double Down Saloon
2. Two Boots Pizza
3. Vanessa’s Dumpling House
4. Baby’s All Right
5. Tompkins Square Park
Check out more of Marco’s work at his website.