Chase Travels with Vivian Hertz: “This is also Miami”
As a teenager Vivian Hertz started photographing after he got his first camera as a present from his grandfather. At first he documented the skaters around him, but then he found his way into the Brussels graffiti and hip hop scene. Nowadays the freelance photographer's focusses on portraits, streetlife and subcultures in the streets of Antwerp, Brussels, London, New York and even Miami.
Thanks to television shows such as “Baywatch” and the popular catchy song by Will Smith named after the place, there is this idea that Miami exclusively exists of beautiful beaches with lots of palm trees, a vivid surf and skate culture and lots of bikini babes. But in his photo series called “This is also Miami”, Vivian captured an other side of the famous seaside city in the state of Florida.
In this Chase Travels story we'll show you what it’s really like in Miami, through Vivian’s lens.
Written by Chess Teugels, pictures by Vivian Hertz
Why did you travel to Miami twice and did you experience the city differently with every visit?
Actually I travelled to Miami to visit a friend, but to take photographs as well of course. The second time I went there, I shot several photoseries. During my stay, I spent a lot of time with Latinos and Afro-Americans, but also with white people - many of them settled themselves in Miami. Those different contacts made me look at the city through different points of view and see certain distinctions more clearly, such as the ghetto versus the privileged.
You shot two different photo series in Miami: One focussing on Afro-Americans and the other on Latinos with their love for oldtimer cars. Why these particular communities?
I focused on these groups, because they are two of the most interesting communities over there in my opinion. They each have their own powerful (street) culture, that everybody copies all around the world. But the Haitian culture in Miami for example would have also been very interesting to photograph. Maybe next time.
The local street culture is prominent in many of your pictures and many people seem to love to pose in front of your camera. How did they receive you there as a photographer?
They received me with open arms. We were shaking hands, talking and joking with each other. They were very open most of the time. It's not everyday that a European is interested in life over there.
You also took several risky photographs, like the one in front of a well guarded house. In those moments, is it your instinct to capture the moment, despite the possible danger?
It is actually not too risky when you are accompanied by the right guy who is respected by everyone. If you follow his instructions and you're friendly to everybody, it's okay really .
What is one of your favourite photographs from Miami and can you tell us something about it?
Possibly the portraits of "Hound Da God", the rapper with gold teeth and the cap. Because there is no one else like him. He's a good, smart and interesting guy, despite the fact that he could come across as frightening at first sight. He is actually deeply involved in helping his community and is constantly trying to open new doors for them. Together we talked about his community in Miami Overtown, his life as a marine and his concerts all over the US.
What catches our eye are the tattoos in your photographs. As a lifelong observer of street cultures worldwide, could you tell us what the difference is between the tattoo culture in Miami and European tattoos?
Oh, but I'm not an expert when it comes to tattoos. However, I feel like everything is globalised today. What I did notice is that they often have tattoos of friends and family that passed away, which is less common here in Europe. Tattoos are also way more mainstream and fashionable in the hip hop culture in the United States. The tattoo culture is very present everywhere in the big American cities. But like I said, I'm no expert.
Basically, I'm just documenting the street culture that ‘we’ copy all around the world.
If you like what you see and want to see more, make sure to follow Vivian Hertz on instagram!