The Pure Beauty of John Baldessari, and Michael Govan

John-Baldessari-by-Isaac-Hernandez-7303I have done my daily painting this week, but I haven’t photographed them yet. May this photo of John Baldessari serve as consolation until the sun comes out so that I can reproduce my new seven paintings.

John-Baldessari-by-Isaac-Hernandez-7310I appreciate John Baldessari. He’s certainly pushed the envelope, perhaps not on the direction I would have pushed it, but nevertheless I can say that his art has been a contribution to me. He had an exhibit at LACMA titled Pure Beauty; I wondered if he was referring to himself. So I tried to capture his beauty in this photographs. If you missed his exhibit, you can always buy the Pure Beauty book. Or a Pure Beauty bar of soap (only $15). Or other Baldessari parafernalia from the LACMA shop. If you’re not into buying expensive soap, but you like art, and photography, you can always visit LACMA. They always have wonderful exhibits.

John-Baldessari-Michael-Govan-by-Isaac-Hernandez-7380I photographed Baldessari with LACMA director, Michael Govan, who I once interviewed for a magnificent story published in Art Press France (both in English and French): “The Architect, the Museum Director and the Billionaire.” I interviewed Govan once again for a story on Surrealist Women.

I like Govan. It’s always fun to talk to him. Or to take photos of him, taking photos of John Baldessari:


Funny thing, just like Baldessari, I’m also a photographer and painter… It’s just that Govan hasn’t chosen to put my art in his museum just yet.  If you can’t make it to LACMA, you can always contact me to schedule an Isaac Hernández studio tour.


Thinking of Joel Rothschild

Joel Rothschild, author of Signals.

Twelve years ago, I photographed Joel Rothschild, author of “Signals: An Inspiring Story of Life After Life.” I found Signals a fascinating read, not only because of the beauty of the story, but for the content. I loved it even before I read Elizabeth Taylor’s testimonial: “I will treasure Signals always…it’s written from the heart.”

I was taken back to the 1980’s when Joel lost most of his friends to AIDS. With the epidemic as backdrop, Joel recounts how his lover contacted him from the After Life, as he had promised, in different ways. Sometimes he would visit in the form of a hummingbird. Once, even though hummingbirds don’t fly after the sun has gone down, one of these beautiful birds came to Joel on a full moon night.

I was so moved by the story that I gave the book to some friends who had just lost their mother. They both read it in a day. Just like me, they couldn’t put it down. Later, while talking to each other on the phone one morning, one said to the other, “You’re not going to believe it, sister, there’s a hummingbird flying right in front of me, looking straight into my eyes.” It was just like in the book. Their mother was visiting. The sister was shocked, “Oh my God! There’s a hummingbird flying right in front of me as well.”

Isaac Hernández, Thinking of Eric Rothschild, oil pastel on paper.

I gave Joel a small oil pastel drawing of a hummingbird and a green full moon that I had made especially for him. Ten years later I had the urge to draw a hummingbird with a full moon, again, this time against a pale moon. I’ve tried to connect with Joel by phone since, to no avail. Perhaps I should pay more attention to the skies and listen to the hummingbirds.

More than 27 million people have died from HIV infection. While you may not hear about many people dying from AIDS in the US anymore, There are more than 33 million people infected with HIV in the world, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. You can help by making a donation to an organization like the International Medical Corps or Doctors Without Borders. According to the RED Campaign, 700 babies are born with HIV every day. By 2015, that number could be close to zero.


Kurt Russell and His Wine

Once upon a time, I received a phone call from Janice Kleinschmidt, Deputy Editor at Palm Springs Life. She needed a photographer to illustrate her story on Ampelos Cellars and Vineyard, the organic winery that makes Kurt Russell’s Gogi wine, and is located in Lompoc, California. Ah, and Mr. Russell was going to be there.

Kurt-Russell-Gogi-wine-5125It was one of those dream assignments, being playful and partying with Janice, Kurt and our hosts Rebecca and Peter Work, the winery owners. Kurt’s mother, sister and son were also there, as well as my assistant for the day, Katherine, and some of Ampelos employees. It really felt like one big family. Since Kurt shared his special Gogi wine with me, I brought him a bottle of “Conde de Lipa” Rioja wine from my family. Kurt was nice to work with, even posing on top of the wine barrel, when I kindly told him of my idea for a portrait. It was a party. But it was also work. They say that you reach bliss when you cannot distinguish work from play. This day felt very much like Nirvana. And the results shows that we weren’t just slacking. Janice did a wonderful job with the intimate story of Kurt’s love for wine.

Kurt-Russell-Ampelos-vineyards-5393After photos and lunch at the cellars, we went to the vineyards. The party continued. At the time I was doing a series of 100 self-portraits, and at the end of the long day of shooting photos, I realized I hadn’t done my selfie of the day. At the risk of sounding dorky, I asked Kurt if I could do my self-portrait with him. He agreed and below is the result.

Self with Kurt Russell.
Kurt Russell and I (self-portrait).

You can see a larger selection of photos from the day in a gallery at the Mercury Press archives.


Photographing Dan Brown in the Library

Dan Brown going down the stairs into Inferno, his new bestseller. Photo: ©2013 Isaac Hernandez.

With the occasion of Dan Brown’s launch of his new novel, Inferno, which sold 228,961 printed copies in the UK alone in its first week (who says books were dead?), Die Weltwoche in Switzerland contacted me to license a portrait I took of the author in Exeter, New Hampshire. The portrait in the mysterious stairway has a story, which I will revisit here.

When I was first invited to photograph Dan Brown, courtesy of Editorial Planeta, the Spanish publisher of The Lost Symbol, I was clearly told he wouldn’t pose for any pictures; photographs were to be taken exclusively during his interview time.

As soon as Mr. Brown arrived at the Philips Exeter Academy library (New Hampshire), where we were to interview and photograph him, he cordially allowed photographs and video taken of him while he stood surrounded by books, and by Spanish and Argentinian media. I went down on my knees to take a photo from a different perspective than everybody else, and when Dan looked my way, I couldn’t help but lower my head in submission.

Author Dan Brown at the Exeter Library.

He must have liked my demeanor, then and during the interview with Carlos Fresneda, US bureau chief for El Mundo, which you can read here (in Spanish), for he agreed to pose for me, if only for an instant, on his way out for the lunch break. We were to meet at the entrance of the library, but when I saw him taking the stairs, I followed (after all, I’m fond of stairs, and I had taken them on the way up to the sixth floor). There I saw the opportunity for THE photo. “Could you please hold it and look up my way?” That was it! The result was published in the printed edition of El Mundo, alongside a profile photo taken during the interview, shown above.

Dan was so kind, I had to run and buy The Lost Symbol, his latest novel while everybody else was eating lunch. I ran back to the library and, during a break of another one of his interviews, I asked him to sign it for a friend. I was sure to point out I bought it at a small Exeter bookshop, thus supporting not only him, but his local economy. “Thanks, I can put gas in my car now,” he joked.

Thank you, Dan, you’re a true sport.

Dan Brown, author of The DaVinci Code and Inferno, featured in Die Weltwoche, Switzerland, photo by Isaac Hernandez
Dan Brown, author of The DaVinci Code and Inferno, in Die Weltwoche, Switzerland, photo by Isaac Hernandez.



Justin Halpern Portrait

Justin Halpern rests at his home in San Diego.

I was commissioned by Random House Germany to photograph Justin Halpern, author of the bestseller “Sh*t My Dad Says”, and screenwriter of the TV show by almost the same name… Almost, because you cannot curse on TV, so Sh*t becomes $#*!. Go figure. Out of all the photos I took of Justin, the one relaxing under the window is my favorite.

Justin’s dad is a philosopher, with great truths such as: “Everyone thinks their opinion matters. Don’t argue with a nobody. A farmer doesn’tbother telling a pig his breath smells like shit.” And “You got good friends. I like them. I don’t think they would fuck your girlfriend, if you had one.” Or “You screw without rubbers, kids happen. Sorry-you don’t get to have the dog without the dog shit.” Just one more: “Bullshit. War ain’t over till people stop shooting. You can’t say you’re done taking a crap if shit’s still coming out of your ass.” You can follow Sh*t My Dad Says on Twitter to get your regular bits of Dad wisdom.

Halpern recently released another book, “I Suck at Girls”, available online at Halpern’s dedicated site, including more father wisdom.


GORE VIDAL, 1925-2012

Gore Vidal at his home in Hollywood, California, 2008. ©2012

Novelist, screenwriter, essayist, playwright, writer, politician

Vidal, prolific author and critic of American policy, died on July 31st, at his home in Hollywood Hills, north of downtown Los Angeles, where he lived since 2003, after years residing in Ravello, Italy. He was 86.

Early in his career he wrote the ground-breaking The City and the Pillar (1948), which outraged mainstream critics as one of the first major American novels to feature unambiguous homosexuality. Vidal argued that “although our notions about what constitutes correct sexual behavior are usually based on religious texts, those texts are invariably interpreted by the rulers in order to keep control over the ruled.”

For over six decades, Gore Vidal applied himself to a wide variety of sociopolitical, sexual, historical, and literary themes, including more than 20 novels, eight plays, 13 screenplays, and over 200 essays, including the critically lauded Palimpsest: A Memoir. Vidal’s United States (Essays 1952-1992) won the 1993 National Book Award.

His grandfather served as Democratic senator from Oklahoma, which contributed to Gore Vidal’s political philosophy, critical of USA’s foreign policies. He ran for Congress in 1960 (lost narrowly), and ran for Senate in 1982 in California, losing in the primary to Jerry Brown.
Vidal was a member of the advisory board of the World Can’t Wait.