For this week's Mahal, I caught up with skate life photographer, Marco Hernandez. A native of Staten Island, home to one of the world's largest landfills, Marco shoots photos both on and off the island: pics of skateboarders, bums, dead animals, girls, and anything else that catches his 21 years old eyes. Did I mention he also likes the Gonz, listens to Morrissey, and does hip skate tricks at Tompkins Square Park? Well, he does. He's cool and talented as hell, and this week, I was lucky enough to see his sick photos and talk to him about how he became a photographer and why he loves fellow Staten Island natives the Wu-Tang Clan.
VICE: What was it like growing up in Staten Island?
Marco Hernandez: Boring. There's really not much out here for anyone to do. It's a small island where everybody knows everybody. Most of the kids out here become potheads; you don't really hear much from this borough at all. It's always been known as “The Forgotten Borough.”
How far are you from where Wu-Tang is from?
Oh man. Growing up my brothers always had Wu-Tang tapes playing throughout my home. I was born in Mariners Harbor; I think some of the members were from that area. It was too dope listening to them and knowing the words to their songs when you're 6 years old. I was raised on that, and I still listen to Wu Tang Clan on the daily. I'm down with them for life. They pretty much put Staten on the map and are still killing it to this day.
Which came first for you: skateboarding or photography?
I got into skateboarding first. I was 8 years old watching older kids on the block doing shit off curbs, and I just knew I wanted to try that. It wasn't until I was ten that I got my first skateboard. Now fast forward ten years, and here I am still skating. I got into photography around two years ago. I was just going through some tough shit, and I just wanted something that was therapeutic for me. I always looked through mags growing up, ripping pages out of Thrasher and throwing them on my wall. I knew I wasn't going to make it pro, but I still wanted skateboarding to be a part of my life always, so I picked up photography. I can honestly say it's one of the best decisions I ever made.
Do you prefer taking pictures of your girlfriend or skate life?
I get the same satisfaction out of both. It's fun shooting photos of skateboarding—plus she is always hype on all the photos we get when we shoot together. She is one of the easiest people to shoot with, because she is down for anything and I find that awesome about her.
How does one make a career out of skate photography nowadays?
I honestly don't even know. I think it's just about who you know and how good you are. It's a competitive field, and I knew exactly what I was getting myself into. I first started shooting with NY Skateboarding as a contributing photographer for a while. While I was doing that, I was always out shooting photos with homies that were heavily involved with skateboarding, so it worked out pretty well. I got an opportunity to do a board graphic for a board company out of Long Island called The Northern Co. I am really stoked on it. If I can't make it pro but still get a board graphic with my photo, I'm still really hyped! I have also made photo zines for two years with Blood of The Young, from Canada, and Nighted from California. I am still working on new projects to this day.
Thanks, Marco. Looking forward to seeing the board!