In more ways than one, what you see in advertisements—whether that be the always perfectly shaped Chick-fil-A sandwich or fashion models whose images have created an epidemic of self-esteem issues—is often not real. It can’t be real, because most of the time, real is not convincing enough, not sexy enough, too expensive, or too difficult. Advertising was created to manipulate people’s minds and create desire. In the case of photographer Felix Hernandez, the manipulation happens on both sides of the lens. Case in point: The Audi R8 you see above is not a car.
Hernandez was hired by Audi to craft a campaign for the $160,000-plus supercar, and there must have been something in the brief that went along the lines of “roads not necessary.” In his photos, the R8 looks like it’s prancing around the Cancun coast and exploring Yukon Cornelius’s territory. Except Audi never actually gave him a car to work with. He didn’t need it. All he required was a detailed $40 model off the internet and . . . some flour?
Hernandez specializes in taking miniatures and using a variety of perspective plays to develop an illusion of swear-they’re-real images. Most of the work is done in his home studio, but occasionally, he’ll go out into the world and set up on a folding buffet table to find that perfect backdrop, as he did with the beach scene.
According to Hernandez, in a piece he wrote for PetaPixel, he prefers to do most of the work in-camera with real items, so he uses things like flour for snow or dust, corn syrup for water droplets, or real smoke for mystery. That’s mostly done with a 24-105–millimeter lens, a beauty lens, a lighting tube called a snoot, and a magnificent understanding of scale. Then he applies the finishing touches in Photoshop when absolutely necessary.
In a world that’s increasingly fake and filtered, this is a nice little reminder to appreciate art and creativity, but, at the same time, to stay grounded with the understanding that you can’t believe everything you see. Even if you want to think your supercar can run away from Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster.