Business Monday

Meet four who are a part of the ‘celebrity photographer’ scene in South Florida

Celebrity photographer Manny Hernandez.
Celebrity photographer Manny Hernandez. cjuste@miamiherald.com

Manny Hernandez can barely get through a shopping trip at Publix or a visit to Versailles without being stopped by people he knows to shake hands “like a politician.”

Alex Gort, a staple at any gala in town, is carrying on a family tradition started by his grandfather and passing it along to his own children.

Alex Tamargo turned a long-ago side gig taking pictures at Miami Heat community events into a career as an event photographer.

And Suzanne Delawar is shooting celebrity weddings at the age of 23 — 10 years after she first joined her father as a photo assistant.

Like World Red Eye’s Seth Browarnik, these four photographers and their photo companies are heading into the busy Art Basel and holiday season.

MANNY HERNANDEZ

Miami native Manny Hernandez has made his city key to his brand: “Manny of Miami.”

“I’ve been here all my life and I’ve never gone anywhere else,” said Hernandez, who gave his age as “fortysomething.”

His photography career started in high school, when then-state Sen. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen first ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election in 1989. But politicians weren’t his ideal subject.

“I started shooting like soap opera [stars] and concerts and stuff; I was always going to South Beach,” said Hernandez, who also runs a photo booth company with his girlfriend. He published his own newspaper, Miami Beat, and later was approached by one of the founders of Ocean Drive magazine, Jason Binn.

“First picture I ever sold to Ocean Drive was a picture of Vanilla Ice,” he said.

Getty represents him and his archive, but Hernandez also works directly with publications and does hired gigs for clients.

Hernandez, who lives in the Edgewater neighborhood of Miami, has covered celebrities, Latino stars, nightlife, arts and local social scenes, with his photos running in the Miami Herald, Ocean Drive, Haute Living and other publications. For the last 15 years, he has focused mostly on society

“Before, it used to be celebrities, celebrities, celebrities,” Hernandez said. But now: “A celebrity has an audience of 10 million people; what do they need me for? That’s why I cover society. I cover the people who make it happen.”

ALEX TAMARGO

Alex Tamargo didn’t set out to be a photographer, even though his father has been in the business for years. Now 37, he started overseeing retail for the Miami Heat after college and picked up a camera to show off the products for sale online.

After the community affairs department asked him to shoot events when their normal photographer wasn’t available, he borrowed a camera from his father and figured it out from there.

“It got to the point where I was literally making more money as a photographer for community affairs than I was doing my real job for the Heat,” said Tamargo, who is also a partner in a T-shirt company called Lyfe Brand.

Getty Images signed him about 11 years ago as its South Florida and Caribbean contributor, which means Tamargo owns most of the images he shoots and gets royalties when they sell. Through Getty, he is also hired for assignments, in which cases the client owns the images.

Tamargo said he spends a lot of his time photographing Spanish-language jobs including morning shows at Univision and Telemundo, parties and telenovela premieres. A-list celebrities have been more eager to promote their projects through such outlets in recent years, he said.

“The beauty of it all is that they finally realize that the Hispanic market is huge in the United States and it doesn’t hurt to tap into that market,” Tamargo said.

GORT PRODUCTIONS

Alex Gort’s grandfather worked as a photographer in Cuba until he came to the United States in 1952; his mother Ketty Gort and uncle Willy Gort, now a Miami city commissioner, followed in the family business.

Gort, 58, started working with his mother nearly 40 years ago photographing events, corporate clients, weddings and other celebrations before forming his own company about 15 years ago. His services include professional headshots, corporate events, galas and charity races as well as video.

He counts the Beacon Council, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, law firms and several charitable organizations among his clients.

“I always feel like when you’re honest and you’re good and deliver quality work, it’s amazing how the word gets around,” said Gort, who lives in Hollywood.

Shooting weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and other events kept Gort busy when his kids, now in their 30s, were young. But now he is making up for lost time: Son Alex Jr. and daughter Rosy both work for the company, Gort Productions in Miami. Alex Jr. shoots, does post-production work and business development, while Rosy runs the office, works on getting new clients and coordinates production.

“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be today where I am, advanced in electronics, imaging and computers,” Gort said. “I was old school.”

SUZANNE DELAWAR STUDIOS

Winston Delawar always loved art and photography, but in college a professor told him he should become a teacher if he wanted a job immediately. Delawar took that to heart, becoming a teacher for kids with emotional behavior disorder.

He loved working with kids but said his heart remained with the arts.

“Eventually the passion took over,” said Delawar, 56. He started shooting weddings about 12 years ago.

A couple years later, 13-year-old daughter Suzanne tagged along as an assistant. After a year, she started shooting weddings by herself.

“I remember my mom dropping me off, kissing me goodbye,” said the younger Delawar, who goes by Suzy. “I remember the bride laughing.”

Father and daughter worked every weekend to make a name for themselves, getting a big break when they were hired by E! Entertainment Television to shoot production stills for Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami, featuring the Kardashian sisters.

“You get stuck with a label as a celebrity photographer,” said Winston Delawar, who lives in Davie. “People just automatically assume: good enough for the Kardashians, good enough for us.”

The company has photographed Y100 events, the Jingle Ball concert, Selena Gomez and others. Their celebrity wedding business is getting the most attention, thanks to gigs for the nuptials of Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union, hip-hop artist Wiz Khalifa and Amber Rose, and film producer Will Packer and wife Heather Hayslett. About 70 percent of their business comes from weddings that bring an average of $7,000-$10,00 for still photos and video. Those “moving” images have become a growing part of the business.

The Plantation-based company started as Winston Delawar Photography, but has been renamed Suzanne Delawar Studios. Winston Delawar focuses on bringing in business and doesn’t shoot much himself; the company has 11 photographers-cinematographers on staff.

“She’s the future, I’m the past,” the proud father said.

Although their office and home is in Broward, most shoots are in Miami, Palm Beach, Pennsylvania or other spots in the U.S., Canada or the Caribbean.

As they look to the future, the Delawars are eager to explore television production; Suzy would like to venture into movies.

“The weddings will always be No. 1 for me because that’s my first love,” Winston Delawar said. “We’re never going to become millionaires doing weddings.”

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