When viewing Richard Koci Hernandez’ new photography series “Chasing the Hatman,” one can’t help but recall the classic images of throwback espionage films where a shadowy figure in a hat appears with mysterious demeanor and unknown motivation. The same fascination is ever present in Hernandez’ work, peppered with an Alfred Hitchcock touch to go along with his contemporary style, his method elevates this series’ photographs into a higher creative level. In Chasing the Hatman, he finds random hat-wearing strangers and captures them on his camera. The end result is a set of inventive collective work sizzling with all the film-noir feels, just looking at each images, one can easily envision a stirring narrative.
How did you come about with the idea for “Chasing the Hatman” series?
The idea came to me only recently, I’ve actually been working on the series for more than 20 years, Believe it or not, mostly subconsciously. For 20 years, I’ve always known I had a particular interest and fascination in men wearing old nostalgic hats but never really asked myself to internally investigate why that was the case until about two years ago. I would venture to say that I would still not know why if it hadn’t been for people continually asking me why I had such a fascination with man in hats. For the better part of 20 years, my work was largely unseen outside of my intimate family and friends so once I started posting my work on social media a larger audience was able to see the trend and that’s when the questions started coming.
I think I was afraid of the answer. I think I still am. It’s such a visceral attraction—one that often has me going to great lengths to capture the “man in the hat”—that I’ve jumped into oncoming traffic and put myself in harm’s way to get the shot.
I knew it was something deep inside me. I avoided thinking about the why for so long, but I’ve finally come to terms with the answer.
First, it’s not a fashion statement and it’s not about the hats themselves—it is about the man under the fedora. It’s really about looking for the father I never had. I’m searching for my dad and in a twisted way a man in a hat is the ideal 1950s stereotype of a father figure.
So, I keep coming back to the streets, searching, searching, searching…
Once I finally realized why I was chasing the hat man, It seemed appropriate to gather a few into a series.
Well, I never go out and look for images I prefer the images come to me, And as arrogant and pompous as that sounds it’s the truth of how I work. I very rarely venture out of my house with the camera purely to make photographs. My photographs are a byproduct of my normal life, going to the store, meetings, getting gas, changing the tires on my car etc. the mundane actions of life- but always being open- aware- with a camera in hand. So the hatmen present themselves to me and then I usually go out of my way to follow them several blocks until I get them in the right light or situation. Sometimes, More often than not, I see light– interactions between the darkness and the light– contrast, and geometry or a place or situation and usually, very patiently wait–often hours– for the right person or moment to happen within that space.
From a creative perspective, share to us what you learned while shooting this series?
That nothing beats being ready at all times, you never know when the hat man will show up. ALWAYs BE READY! I don’t believe much in a lot of inspirational mumbo-jumbo, I often believe as many other people have said before all you really have to do is just be ready to do the work!
How different is “Chasing the Hatman” from your previous works?
Not very. There is a continual thread throughout my body of work. That is the fact that I shoot mostly in black and white, My images are very contrasty, focusing mostly on geometry, light, composition, the anonymity of my subject matter in the form of a silhouette– usually. I also tend to create digital images that try their hardest to emulate the analog print with the borders, dust,Grime, dirt and scratches. So this series resembles most of my other work.
As a photographer how do you know a subject is worth creating a photo series about?
When you know it’s the right thing to do, basically your gut, your heart, your artistic intuition, call it what you want- but it will tell you it’s the right thing to do and you’ll know it. Sorry to sound so ‘new agey’ but I believe this to be true -with all my heart.