Werner Segarra has been a happy Phase One user for several years now. We asked Werner to share some of his images and tell about some of his personal projects. He chose to share his project Mi Herencia. This came about when Werner was asked to do a fashion editorial for a Puerto Rican magazine. He was given free reign and chose to travel back to his Puerto Rican roots and carried out a fine art project with focus on his own cultural heritage. With help from haute couture designer David Antonio he was able to create a beautiful editorial that has received a lot of positive feedback. This is Werner’s story and final result from his adventure exploring his own heritage.
First of all, could you tell a bit about yourself as a photographer, where did you start and how did you end up doing the Mi Herencia?
I discovered my passion for photography at a very early age. My father practiced photography as a hobby all his life. I was ten years old and lived in Saudi Arabia when he taught me the basics of creating a shot as well as the process of developing black and white film. I studied photography at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and then moved back to the island of Puerto Rico, where my roots are, and started working as a full time commercial photographer. I did a lot of editorial work for some of the Island’s top fashion magazines. Today I live in
Phoenix AZ. and specialize in architecture and interior design photography, among other subjects.
Mi Herencia was born out of pride, trust and art. Two years ago prior to a trip to Puerto Rico I contacted a very good friend of mine, Patricia de la Torre, director of Caras Magazine, to let her know I was coming. She asked me to do a shoot for the magazine, whatever I wanted, since she had trust in my work.
That’s when I came up with the vision to do something about my country, my people and an important part of our heritage, the coffee industry (Puerto Rican coffee was considered among the best in the world during the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries) - and that’s how Mi Herencia (My Heritage) was born.
I enlisted one of the top haute couture designers in Puerto Rico, David Antonio, also a very good friend of mine, to help me bring the concept into reality. He was definitely a key player and deeply in this project since he designed most of the fashion garments featured in the shoot. He created masterpieces that celebrate our heritage without looking like costumes from another era, very au courant. The magazine was very satisfied with the shoot, and so were we.
I exhibited the work at the Gebert Contemporary Art Gallery here in Phoenix. I’m happy to say that it was a success and the response to the images has been overwhelming. Therefore I flew back early this year to add to the project and expect it to be complete by the end of 2013, and plan to have it exhibited at more venues.
What was the technical setup during the shoot and could you put a few words on what you did in post-production?
My technical setup during the shoot included the Phase One 645DF+ with the IQ180 digital back, and my two favorite lenses a Phase One 45mm focal plane lens and a 55mm leaf shutter lens from Schneider Kreuznach. On the shoot I was tethered to a laptop, using Capture One Pro. And for lighting I used a single hard light throughout the whole shoot. Most of my color, contrast and manipulation were done through Capture One Pro, and some slight refinements in Photo Shop. Usually, I try to capture my vision as I'm shooting into the laptop to Capture One Pro.
The images are very intriguing for the viewer, could you put some words on your thoughts behind them?
Mi Herencia has evolved into a Fine Arts project. What started as a fashion shoot became a photographic essay that celebrates a part of Puerto Rico's rich culture and history. Through its characters Mi Herencia blends four segments of our society into an intriguing story. The two sisters address four cultural elements. First, the important role of family as the primary social institution, second, the livelihood of many Puerto Rican families - the coffee industry, third, mourning and respect for the dead, and finally, religious belief and spirituality. Through these images the audience is confronted with visual compendium of the realities and myths of Puerto Rico's culture.
Where did the shoot take place and how did you get the locals feel at ease in front of the camera?
We used multiple locations for the shoot: the mountains where the heart of the coffee farming area is, the capital city of Old San Juan and a Convent House. During the process of location scouting with my father, I met the property owners. I was very intrigued by who they are and what they represent. I knew right away that I wanted to incorporate them into the story. All I asked them to do was to be themselves during the shoot, and surprisingly enough they were very at ease during the whole experience. The atmosphere at the shoot was enjoyable, relaxed and low-stressed. Everyone understood my vision and was proud and willing to be part of something that would become a tribute to Puerto Rico.
Actually, the biggest surprise for me during the shoot was the willingness and how much the Nuns at the Convent House enjoyed playing their roles in the pictures. They were funny, and playful and had the whole crew laughing. Because of their enthusiasm during the shoot and also out of respect for the charity work they do, I pledged to donate part of the proceeds of any sales from Mi Herencia to the Convent.
You have been a Phase One user for several years now, what benefits have you experienced from working with us?
My Phase One partner of choice is Digital Fusion, in Culver City, CA. My rep is Chris Benes. What I love about working with Chris is that he's always available when I have technical questions, and he has come to my business in Arizona on several occasions and spent time helping me come up to speed on the Phase One system. It's great working with a real person versus a company. Chris personalizes the whole process. He's the best sales rep I've ever dealt with.
"Through these images the audience is confronted with visual compendium of the realities and myths of Puerto Rico's culture."