Soothing perspectives, natural light, and vibrant colors.
Besides tickling our appetites and wanderlust, Brooklyn-based Gabriela Herman’s work touches on sensitive issues, confronting taboos, and often-overseen realities. We asked her about her relationship with the medium and the challenges of juggling commercial and editorial photography.
How would you describe yourself and what do you like doing most?
Luckily for me, I’m passionate about what I do, so I never feel like I'm working. I love being on set, capturing images, and interacting with people from all walks of life. I'm definitely a “half full glass” kinda gal. I think one can tell by looking at my work.
How did you discover your passion for photography? What is the first shot you remember taking?
Eighth grade. My best friend and I would hang a bed sheet over my staircase as a backdrop and shoot each other posing. Let’s just say none of those ever made it into my portfolio, ha!
You are specialized in travel, food, lifestyle, and portrait photography—how did you know you wanted to focus on these fields?
I started out photographing people and never really stopped. I love the interactions between photographer and 'model' — model in quotes here because I rarely shoot actual models. It wasn't until a few years in that I was collaborating with a friend of mine who happens to be a chef and a farmer.
I was intrigued by him and what he was up to, so I began hanging around and documenting all of it. After a few summer seasons of doing this, I realized I had built quite the food portfolio without even noticing. In my head, food photography happened in a studio, with fake things and tools, but here I was, outdoors, on a farm creating beautiful food imagery in a natural light and setting. From that point on I became known for shooting food, but in my own way. Regarding travel photography, well, I've been an avid traveler my whole life, I’ve lived abroad, in a number of places, and was always shooting. What I love about travel photography is that it encompasses all my favorite fields: people, food, landscapes, lifestyle.
You published your first book, The Kids, in 2017. The book deals with and explores the impact of gay parents on their children. How did the idea for this book and this topic specifically come about?
Here's an excerpt from the book:
My mom is gay. But it took me a long time to say those words out loud. She came out over 20 years ago when I was in high school. My parents soon separated and, eventually, she married her longtime partner in one of Massachusetts’s first legal unions. It was a raw and difficult time. I hardly spoke to her for a year while I studied abroad. It felt like a fact that needed to be hidden, especially among my prep school classmates. The topic was taboo, even within our otherwise tight-knit family.
My younger siblings were dealing with the same emotions, but meaningful conversation seemed beyond our reach. Seven years ago, at the age of 29, this project began, with the intent to meet, photograph, and interview people with a similar story. Despite living in numerous cities around the world, I had never encountered anyone else raised by a gay parent. My sister directed me to COLAGE, an organization that supports people with LGBTQ parents. I met Danielle Silber, who has six parents and who had become an organizer for the group. She invited me to her East Village apartment where her living room floor was filled with young people, each telling their own family’s “coming out” story. Since that night, I’ve documented nearly 100 stories of children and met many more. Each portrait and interview has become, in an unexpected way, my own therapy session.
What are some of the good, bad, and downright ugly things about being part of the photo industry?
Industries are changing a lot...the negative side of that is that budgets are decreasing. I don't travel nearly as much as I used to because people just don't have the budget anymore and often end up hiring people locally instead.
Which camera and lenses do you work with the most?
I've been a Nikon gal, ever since high school. Currently I shoot with two bodies, the D850 and the D810. I use a variety of lenses but I’m currently in love with my 70200.
A word of advice you would give to someone starting off his or her career as a photographer?
Be social! That's always my number one advice. It will get you a lot further than anything else.