Wynwood-born Manny Hernandez started taking pictures after he graduated from Westwood Christian School in 1989. He studied communications at Miami Dade College and Florida International University, but by the early 1990s had found his niche: shooting candids of A-list celebs living large in the Magic City.
Among Hernandez’s thousands of images:
▪ A group shot of Ingrid Casares, Shakira, Jon Secada, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Donald Trump and Jennifer Lopez at a South Beach opening in 1998.
▪ David Geffen and Madonna at the 1995 opening of the Delano in Miami Beach.
▪ The Bee Gees hamming it up at their Beach recording studio, also in ‘95.
▪ Sylvester Stallone flashing a Binaca mint spray in 1993 at the old Planet Hollywood in Coconut Grove.
▪ Prince in 1996 “jumping off his piano with gun looking mic,” Hernandez’s favorite, according to a caption in his new 104-page photo book, “Candids Miami” (Wynwood Books, $25).
“Unfortunately, some of these people have died,” says Hernandez, who also included 1990s images of Celia Cruz, Gianni Versace, Robin Williams and David Bowie. “I said I have to do the book before it was too late. Before it would be ‘The Dead Book.’”
Throughout that era, Hernandez was among the most sought-after celebrity photographers in Miami and South Beach. His work frequently appeared in publications including the Miami Herald and Ocean Drive magazine.
“It was very lucrative for me at the time as a part-time job. I said, ‘Wow, I should do this full time,” Hernandez recalls. “I’ve never worked for anybody all these times. Just for myself.
“I was offered a job by the Herald in about 1991. I actually went to get a physical in Mount Sinai [Medical Center]. But the money wasn’t there and I was doing well with what I was doing and I owned the rights to all my images. And I wanted to travel. I didn’t want to get stuck doing wildfires and accidents on I-95. I liked covering celebrities, nightlife, drag queens and society ladies with big hats.”
Hernandez did, for a short time, work in Los Angeles and also in New York City with superstar paparazzo Ron Galella.
“I learned a lot from Ron. We’re still friends and we talk occasionally. I visit him in New Jersey. He was a mentor. He also did the candid approach. His pictures were amazing.”
What Hernandez learned from Galella, who became famous when former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis accused him in court of invading her privacy: “A candid approach doesn’t need to be a grotesque picture. It can be beautiful photo even if you don’t have studio lighting.”
Galella’s most well-known photo: “Windblown Jackie,” taken in 1971 on Madison Avenue in New York City.
At first, Hernandez was puzzled by Galella’s shot seen around the world.
“I was thinking, this is nothing like what I learned in school. This is wrong,” says Hernandez, adding: “The image still hangs in my apartment.”
Hernandez, 48, is still taking photos and has dedicated “Candids Miami” to legendary Miami show-business press agent Charlie Cinnamon, who died in 2016 two days before his 95th birthday.
“Even with the difference in age, we had an amazing friendship,” Hernandez says. “We had one breakfast, then we had two breakfasts, then we had thousands of breakfasts together.”
Hernandez, who last year co-produced a Miami Beach museum exhibit dedicated to Cinnamon’s life and career, says his friend had a profound influence on his life: “For me, he opened up a lot of things, whether it was ballet or symphony or classical music. I didn’t grow up with that. I grew up with bass booty music and Luther Campbell.”
If you go
Celebrity photographer Manny Hernandez will sign copies of “Candids Miami,” 7 p.m. Friday at Books & Books in Coral Gables, 265 Aragon Ave., where his photos will be on display throughout March.
Another signing will be 6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7, at Books & Books in Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave.