Wednesday, January 27, 2010

More stories with photos

I took a few days off from writing to attend the magnificent Entertainment Gathering, a baby of the TED conference. It was amazing. I will be writing about it here and in the paper during the weeks to come. I didn't take a digital camera, but a Hasselblad and a Nikon FM2, loaded with color and black-and-white film respectively. In the meantime, El Mundo has been missing my stories and they asked me to start writing again. Following are two links to new stories, and one link to a story posted last week.

Binge drinking damages the brain in teenagers. Girls get affected in their ability to do math and boys in the ability to focus in one thing. Maybe I had just one drink too many.
Proposition 8 trial continues. The witnesses for the defense take the stand. Trial scheduled to end today, although the verdict won't be announced for several days.
The jaguar is now protected in the US, a bit too late for Macho B, the last jaguar known to roam in the US, who was killed by Arizona's Department of Game and Fish last march.
Direct Relief International has been sending continuous help to Haiti since 1985. I met with some volunteers at their headquarters in Santa Barbara.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Photography with a Difference


Photographer Adam Bouska is changing the world through www.noh8campaign.com. I wrote a story about Cindy McCain joining the ranks of her daughter and others, in defense of equal rights on marriage. See the screen capture above, on the cover of elmundo.es today. Read the story here.

Someone asked me for McCain's full statement. Here it is:

January 21, 2010

“Senator McCain respects the views of members of his family.  The Senator strongly supported the effort to successfully pass Arizona Proposition 102, the Marriage Protection Amendment, and his opposition to gay marriage remains the same.  Senator McCain believes the sanctity of marriage is only defined as between one man and one woman.”

By the way, the story is the fourth most read today in the America portal, so far.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sounds of Silence


Simon and Garfunkel sang about it, but today is ever more difficult to find silence, natural silence. Ask Gordon Hempton, he's been searching for it all around the world, only to come back to his hometown, where he's trying to preserve his own square inch of silence, in the middle of the Olympic National Park. He wrote about his adventures in the book One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Quest to Preserve Silence.

I hiked with Gordon and Carlos Fresneda through beautiful woods. Carlos wrote about it in his elmundo.es blog. You can see more photos from this 5km magical hike in Mercury Press' archive, here. I will never listen the same way after this sound experience. You can read Gordon's own "silence" blog here.

Coal mining in Black Mesa, death row in California, Defense of Marriage in San Francisco

You can practice your Spanish some more:
Environmental Victory for the Hopi and Navajo: here.
California's Death Row reaches 700: here.
California Supreme Court trial on Proposition 8: here. This one actually carries a picture I took in San Francisco during the brief time same sex weddings were allowed by Gavin Newsom.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr.



Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. with his wife Coretta Scott King. Photo:  ©Benedict J Fernandez, III


Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. buckling his daughter's shoe. Photo:  ©Benedict J Fernandez, III


Dr. Martin Luther King  Jr. Photo:  ©Benedict J Fernandez, III

My friend Ben Fernandez photographed King for the last year of his life. You can visit his website  here. I wrote a story about him for elmundo.es/america here. Thank you, Ben.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The .22 caliber rifle that changed a boy's life

The pen might be mightier, but the .22 caliber rifle is deadly. An 8-year-old killed his father and the man who was renting a room in their house. I wrote a rather concise story for elmundo.es/america, and it actually made it to the cover of elmundo.es. That's a first for me; I guess blood sells. The boy had learned to shoot from his dad, practicing on prairie dogs. He was sentenced this week, two years later, to enter a private rehabilitation program. I'm not against guns, like I'm not against cars; they're both dangerous weapons. But if you're going to have them, by all means, keep them in a safe -and keep the keys out of the reach of children-, for your own good, and of others, including children.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Pen is Mightier than the Camera?

One of my pictures that I know for certain made a difference when published in Spain, starting a dialogue about the acceptance of gay couples with children. Pictured above: Jeff, Brett and Madeline (clockwise). The four month old baby was conceived by artificial insemination. Both parents are donors; they chose not to know who is the actual blood father. Photo: ©Isaac Hernandez, All Rights Reserved

Well, we´ve heard it before, a picture is worth a thousand words. One picture can change the world. Right. But how many pictures can I take in one day that will change the world? The pen is indeed mightier than the sword. But is the picture mightier than the word? I'd like to think so. Well, I know so. There have been photos that have stopped wars, generated interest to create schools, and stopped injustice. And I'm working on a photographic project that I hope will make its contribution, featuring Difference Makers in the Social, Environmental and Creative fields.

If a picture is really 1000 words, I can produce thousands of words in a fraction of a second. However, will they be significant? Poet Lenore Kandel told me once in an interview that there are too many words out there, and that she only wrote the words that really needed to be said (I'm paraphrasing). Yes, I can "write" thousands of words in the shape of pixels in an instant. Millions of pictures are taken each second in this digital age. Do I really need to add more? I'm enjoying not owning a digital camera these days. Film slows me down to focus on significant subjects.

Which brings me back to writing. I can write 1000 significant words easier than I can take one significant photo, especially having the forum of elmundo.es/america, for which I now serve as West Coast Correspondent. After a few days of official business, I've written about sea lions vanishing from San Francisco, an environmental Mayor that campaigned on bicycle, the possibility of a new abolition of the death penalty in the US (it was already abolished in 1972), the possible legalization of marijuana in California, and new green regulations in the California building code.

These words seem to have started a dialogue among the readers, just like the photos that I took in 2000 of gay families with children started a dialogue in Spain, where several years later gay marriage and adoption was legalized.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Seattle elects environmentalist Mayor

Another story I wrote published today here, about Mike McGinn, new Mayor of Seattle.

Death Penalty story

I've never photographed in a jail, although I've always have wanted to.  The idea of dealing with the bureaucracy has stopped me from requesting access. Instead, I've written about the death penalty. A few years ago, I wrote a fascinating story about "The Last Meal", covering the strange passion that some people in the US have for knowing what prisoners order as their last meal. I will have to dig that story out and share it here. For now, you can read, in Spanish, the story that just got published about the American Law Institute removing the article on the death penalty from its book of law. They claimed that the death penalty hadn't passed the test of time. Here it is. I'm proud of it, especially of the headline, which is a bit difficult to translate to English. This is the closest interpretation: "Death Penalty Staggers". Did you know that in the 1700's there were studies that proved that the death penalty increased crime instead of reducing it? Did you know that the Supreme Court actually abolished capital punishment in 1972? This was definitely interesting to write. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Other Sarah of Alaska

Sarah James. | Isaac Hernández

Sarah James, Board Member/Spokesperson Gwich'in Steering Comitte, Neet'sai Gwich'in (Caribou People), the Artic Village (Alaska and Canada). Photo: © Isaac Hernandez, All Rights Reserved.

Excerpt from Carlos' Fresneda story, which you can see here in Spanish.

"'I'm the other Sarah of Alaska, I belong to the Caribou Nation and I live in the Sacred Land where life begins...' This is the way Sarah James, 65, introduces herself in public. She's the voice of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge."


Unlike Sarah Palin (who wasn't even born in Alaska), the roots of Sarah James go back 20,000 years, when the Gwich’in arrived to this spectacular and inhospitable lands following the route of the Caribou, nutritional and spiritual provider for the northernmost Native American tribe.

'The Caribou population has been reduced from 189,000 to 100,000 heads in just 20 years, and that's for us a cruel warning (...) The loss of the Caribou would be like the loss of the buffalo, which ended with many indigenous cultures in the West more than one century ago.'


We met Sarah at the Bioneers Conference (link) in Marin, California. She's educating the world about the dangers of global warming, which they're feeling greatly, with the dissappearance of the permafrost and numerous changes in the wildlife there.

The El Mundo story is a quick taste of this amazing story. And this blog is just the tip of the full interview, which is available for publication, if anybody is interested.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Writing photographer



Pier 39 in San Francisco. Photo: ©Helena Hernández/MercuryPress.com

Sometimes, in order to sell a photo, you also have to have a story. Many times I have done both the job of a writer and photographer. Often, Nancy Black is my writer (see her page here). Almost always, Nancy is my editor. Always, Nancy is my wife.

Last night, I wrote a story, published today in El Mundo (see here), about the exodus of sea lions from San Francisco's Pier 39. In one week, the number of animals went from 921 to 20.

This time, I was the writer, and my sister Helena was the photographer! I'm so happy for my sister. I requested for the newspaper editor to add her name to the credit. As of now, it only shows the name of our agency, MercuryPress.

It's perhaps appropriate that I sold my Canon 5D to a friend that needed one to go to Peru, so right now I'm digital camera-less. I plan to use my Hasselblad and Leica M6 with film until I'm ready for the Canon 5D Mark II; maybe it will be next week... maybe the 5D Mark III will be out.

I guess I will be doing more writing until then. In fact, I wrote a play over the holidays, which I'm producing and directing. Mark your calendars: March 25, 2010, La Colina Auditorium. And I'm co-writing a book with my portraits of environmental leaders.