Cristian Bernal is only 17 years old, but that hasn’t stopped him from building an impressive portfolio filled with quality portraits. The use of light and tones play a big role in his shots, but what’s pivotal to his images is how well Bernal is able to capture the expressions, feelings, and personalities of his friends, family, and everyone else he runs into. CB, as some call him, was born in Colombia but moved to the States when he was seven and has been residing around Florida ever since. What really has gotten Bernal attention in the photography world is the 365 project he embarked on and just recently finished in February (of 2012). Every day, for a whole year, he would take a photo and post it to his flickr account. He’s gained a pretty nice following and is only starting on his journey. We were able to get in touch through email, so keep reading for a conversation about how exactly he began, what about photography intrigues him and more.
How’d you get started in photography?
In the summer of 2010 I met Unkleluc, a photographer/ director/ videographer, at a Wiz Khalifa concert. It was a pretty random occurrence; I say that the planets aligned that night. Anyways, as I talked to Unkleluc we had a small talk about cameras and photography. After the concert I went home smelling like weed from all the smoke and paid a visit to Unkleluc’s blog, I was amazed! Not only did he have a documentation of his life pretty much, but everything was also visually appealing and cool. I wanted to buy a camera that night. Fast forward to Christmas of that year and I finally had enough money, I banked that Christmas hahaha. I bought my first camera, a Nikon D5000, from eBay. I took it everywhere. I started feeling like a girl hahaha you know how they carry their point-and-shoots around and then upload everything to facebook? Well yeah, I realized that wasn’t how I wanted to document my life, I wanted something that took more than just pressing the shutter and uploading pictures to facebook. One night lurking the web, I can’t remember how, I ran into Connor Surdi’s Flickr stream. I can honestly say that is the night I knew in what direction I wanted to go in. I started my first 365 project the next day or so.
What about photography intrigues you?
There are a lot of aspects of photography that interest me. Like all the factors that go into making an image; understanding light, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, poses, composition, editing, post work, all that. All that stuff you learn, and once understood it’s something I feel like one appreciates more. It’s just cool. But besides all that cool stuff, it’s the memories. Every time I go out to shoot, a solid memory is built into not only me but also into the people I’m with. The ability to document my life with the people around me is what fascinates me the most. The fact that in 40 years when I’m chilling on a hammock on my beach house in California, I can go on my iPad 3000 and go on my Flickr stream and view all my past pictures is cool to me. Every picture will spark a memory, bringing me back to that time with the people I was with. And I hope it does the same for everyone who was involved in it.
A lot of your shots are portraits, is that your favorite thing to shoot? If so, why? If not, what and why?
So far, yes, I love portraits. Why? Well I would have to say that is because of the human element in the picture. I enjoy all types of photography, but there is something about having a person as your subject that makes it more enjoyable. You get to talk to them, laugh with them, direct them and really just have a good time with them; building good memories for everyone involved.
Is there any way that Florida influences your photography?
Totally, I bet you that if I lived somewhere in the middle of the Rocky Mountains I would either be shooting wildlife, snow sports, or landscapes hahaha. Being 17, I can’t really go anywhere else to shoot besides the South Florida area. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, I think it’s good, it’s kind of formed my style a little.
Everything, everything I see inspires me. Movies, advertisements, fashion, people. In some way or other, everything I see inspires a thought in me. As for direct people, it’s weird. I’m not really inspired by the really famous photographers that everyone knows, in fact I can only really think of two famous photographers who I think a lot of people would know (Ansel Adams and Annie Leibovitz) and not saying I don’t like them, the opposite, I love their work! But I feel like I am inspired by my peers more than anyone else. The main one would have to be Connor Surdi; his dedication to all his projects and the quality of his work is something else. Also, I’m in a group called the Brotographers (created by Connor), there are about 170 members, and all of them are talented young photographers. In the group we work on inspiring and pushing each other to improve, they inspire me a lot too.
I’m going to continue with my photography and start some new projects soon: Possibly another 365 starting on my 18th birthday. I also want to work more on the business side of it, marketing myself better and get a well-built website to showcase my work. I also plan on traveling around the states within the next year. I plan on photographing the people I stay with, the towns I pass by, and just really documenting the trip. I also want to head into the direction of making videos; lately I have been really interested in that, specifically music videos. The works of Ian Wolfson and Director X just blow my mind away. Telling a story, like a short feature film in a music video. But everything comes with time and I am in no rush, I’m just going to continue doing what I enjoy.
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