Alex "Ghost" Hernandez, aka 54Ghosts, is an Oakland-raised photographer who captures the Town's historic culture — from local music, to the art and street scenes. Through his photographs, Hernandez depicts the simple beauty of Oakland's inner city. We asked Hernandez to share how he got his start behind the camera and his favorite spots to photograph in the city.
Oaklandish (O): How did you get your start with a camera, and how did that translate into you doing what you are doing today?
Alex Hernandez (AH) : I first got my start with a camera two and a half years ago. At the time I was working a job that started to consume me. School wasn't looking too good and I was lost. Spiritually, mentally, financially and I was broke and didn't know where I was going. I just knew I wanted to expand and grow. I challenged myself to go out and do something I wouldn't normally do in hopes of finding something bigger. I picked up a point-and-shoot that was laying around and started shooting graffiti and murals all over Oakland and SF. I taught myself how to manually use a dale. One thing turned to the next. I stayed consistent, then started working with small local companies. Soon I'd catch the eye of artists and companies I would have never imagined. I've done work for countless artists and companies, like Montana Colors, the largest graffiti supply company, Chevrolet, Beastmode, Halo, and my favorite, Oaklandish! It's still a work in progress and there's a lot of growth to do still, but I'm thankful for what I've been able to do and see in these two and a half years.
O: What type of camera do you use? Does it change based on the job?
AH: I have a few thangs for different occasions. My main ones are my Canon, Sony, and Nikon FM2 DSLR's. I do most of my photo work with my Canon. When it comes to video work I shoot with my Sony mirror-less camera. I like to go out and shoot with my Nikon FM2 film camera when I'm doing street photography. Those are my main ones, but I also have a bunch of film, old bodies, and polaroids laying around. Remember though: it's not about what camera you use. Great pictures come from the heart and with any camera. I've gotten some gems with my iPhone.
O: What are your favorite types of pictures to shoot?
AH: My favorite type of pictures to shoot have always been street photography pictures. Being able to tell a story by shooting a subject in an uncontrolled environment is challenging but 10x more rewarding when you make it happen. I also enjoy shooting nature, but if I had to choose then yeah, I would prefer street. My stuff is all over the place though, I've never stuck to one thing.
O: Name your top three favorite places to shoot in the Town.
AH: My three favorite spots to shoot at in the Town are: My homies's rooftop with the dopest view of downtown. Downtown is a nice playground for shooting too. It offers a lot of different looks from old Victorians in Old Oakland, grimy alleys and graffiti off Webster, and newer buildings and spaces up Broadway. My most favorite is anywhere in East Oakland. It hasn't been taken over yet and is still filled with the rich culture I grew up seeing. Folks are still kicking up dust in the East. That's always fun.
O: What are your goals in terms of career and personal development?
H: Being an artist from here, you can't just be talented. You have to be a good business person. Aside from being good at what you do, you have to be good at marketing, design, planning, everything. So as far as career, my goals are to keep a good balance and not let my business side compromise my artistic side or the other way around. I also want to add more substance to my work and put a piece of me into every one of my projects. Not that I already don't do that, but I want to put out more work that brings up topics that need to be discussed.
As far as personal development, I just want to continue growing as a person and maybe one day inspire people to think big; especially kids in the community. I think that's my overall recipe for success: Doing what you love to do while helping others.
O: If you weren’t pursuing photography full time, what would you want to do?
AH: If I wasn't pursuing photography full time I don't know what I'd wanna be doing honestly. I've put so much into this. I think I'd want to go back and finish college.
O: How can the public reach you and see more of your work?
AH: People can reach me at my website at www.54Ghosts.com or y'all can follow me on social media: @54Ghosts on Instagram and @fiftyfourghosts on Twitter. Make sure y'all stop by the Oaklandish store and check out our three collab tees. They're fire! Also, Cookie Bar Creamery will be hanging prints of mine at their downtown Oakland shop this next month and they will be for sale. Proceeds will be going to a local nonprofit. Lastly, stay tuned for my photo book Inside Oakland coming out in a couple months. Thank y'all, stay legendary.
Find Hernandez's designs for Oaklandish in-store or on our website.