LALA Dispatch: Trevor Hernandez Reframes Frieze LA

Alex Israel

Photography by Trevor Hernandez

Photo by Trevor Hernandez in silhouette by Alex Israel
Photo of Trevor Hernandez in silhouette by Alex Israel. Story produced by Mallery Roberts Morgan.

Alex Israel: Let’s just get started with a few basics. I came to know you as @gangculture on Instagram, but what’s your real name? Are you a native Angeleno? Where did you grow up?

Trevor Hernandez: My name is Trevor Hernandez, and I am a native Angeleno. I lived in Burbank when I was really young, spent some time in the valley, then moved north to the suburbs. During and after college I lived on the Eastside, Westside and currently live in Northeast LA.

AI: Have you always made art? Did you go to art school? I know you worked for Jason Rhoades—something we have in common, although we never overlapped. What was that experience like for you?

TH: I have always had an interest in art, but it was a causal relationship prior to my education at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. While attending ArtCenter, Rachel Khedoori introduced me to Jason, and I started working in his studio soon after. The experience was educational and entertaining. It was very helpful to watch and participate in his process at a time when I was immersed in a rigorous program at school. Working with him was a great counterbalance to academic life.

AI: How did you become @gangculture? How did the account begin, and what can you tell me about the name?

TH: I created my Instagram account in 2012 for fun. The name @gangculture was initially intended as a title for publication, but I decided to abandon the idea once I saw the potential in posting directly to the app. I originally thought of the title as a cultural critique of tribalism—not street gangs—but the politics of the original project have nothing to do with my account now. It’s just a name that stands for something larger than myself.

AI: Tell me about your process. Do you go out looking for things to photograph, or do you just happen upon them when you least expect it?

TH: I’m always searching for things to shoot, but I try to dedicate at least a day a week to wandering around unfamiliar places. The most effective method begins by traveling solo in an environment with few distractions.

AI: What’s your criteria for a good image? Do you ever stage your work or components of it?

TH: The images are never staged or manipulated. I don’t find that very interesting. My criteria continues to shift, but I’m generally searching for moments that disrupt a space in a compelling way.

AI: Do you spot most of your photographic subjects from the car or while walking?

TH: Both. The search generally begins in the car, but if I spot something, I will usually explore on foot in search of additional shots once I’m walking around.

AI: Has the work changed the way you move around the city?

TH: The habits I’ve developed make it difficult to navigate the city at times. I’m easily distracted and end up taking detours that extend my travel time. I find the new routes beneficial in terms of having a better understanding of the city itself.

AI: Since you started posting, Instagram has undergone a number of changes—I sometimes find myself having to take a break from it. What are your thoughts about the platform as it stands today?

TH: I prefer the early experience over the new. It was nice when Instagram was just a photo feed with no algorithm in place or additional features that consume so much time if you attempt to view it all.

AI: What are your favorite Instagram accounts?

TH: I spend a great deal of time in the Explore tab watching videos that are not art-related. A few notable accounts I enjoy are @shaunking, @jamescwelling, @vicbergeriv and @brad___phillips.

AI: Does @gangculture have a life after Instagram? Will the work leap from the digital world into the physical world?

TH: I’ve had books published and photos curated in shows, but my intention for the work has always been to live on Instagram. I have no desire to make a transition to the physical world unless the work calls for it.

AI: How is LA banality different than banality everywhere else?

TH: The layout of the city allows things to accumulate in various places, which is different from most large cities. I have a difficult time in San Francisco and New York due to the close proximity of the buildings and homes. But if you spend enough time exploring, you can discover a few gems anywhere.

AI: Have you always found beauty in the mundane?

TH: Beauty exists in everything. The bigger challenge for me is finding something interesting.

AI: Do you filter your images?

TH: All my photos are phone-to-feed. In the early days of Instagram, there were times when a filter was needed to brighten an image. Once Instagram updated the app to include additional editing features, there was no longer a need for a filter.

AI: What do you do when you’re not taking or posting photographs?

TH: I’m trying to live a happy and healthy life. I have a full- time job so it can be a challenge if I want to feed the feed.

AI: Is @gangculture a counterbalancing mechanism for your full- time-job life?

TH: The work has become a part of my routine, so I don’t think of it as a counterbalance, but the process is a great creative departure from my full-time-job life.

AI: Do the photographs go up as soon as you get them, or do you stockpile them and then curate the feed with deliberate, non-linear timing?

TH: I prefer to post the photos soon after they are taken, but sometimes I’ll live with them for a while prior to posting. I don’t have a stockpile, but I’ll hold images for a later date to avoid clogging the feed.

AI: What LA voices or visionaries inspire you most?

TH: The list of influential individuals associated with LA is extensive, so I’ll limit my answer to a few of the artists I enjoy who were born in LA: Michael Asher, Frances Stark and Christopher Williams. I’m also really interested in the A-Z West work by Andrea Zittel and projects created or organized by Wendy Yao.