Images with a Purpose: The Photography of HEX
HEX is a photography studio with a serious mission: creating images featuring people from communities that are underrepresented in the media, thereby giving those communities a “visual voice” in popular culture. Made up of a small handful of New York–based photographers, HEX is using photography to challenge classism, racism, sexism, and other societal ills.
Since their first shoot in 2013, the photographers of HEX have operated in a “Trojan horse” style—creating unique, striking, and beautiful images, always with an eye toward inclusion and representation. (HEX makes its images available as an Adobe Stock premium contributor and through other outlets, as well as creating custom images for clients.)
STORYTELLING THROUGH STOCK
Jared Drace, HEX’s head of production, says that one key to creating successful images is being sure that they tell a story. He says, “In our business, in some ways we’re moving into a post-stock world—so the more things look like stereotypical stock, the less clients want them. They want actual stories. So that’s the mindset we have at HEX. We’re trying to produce photographs that really show a person’s life and passions and struggles.”
For HEX, that means starting with skilled photographers that share the HEX aesthetic—the core team is based in New York City, but they work with artists from around the world. Also, they don’t set up typical photo shoots, and they often work with non-models. Drace says, “Our productions are very guerilla-style. We don’t typically have a big crew. We find real people who have interesting stories or occupations, and then we work with them. We choose an intriguing person, and then we go to their apartment or take a journey around the city with them—and we try to get a lot out of a small budget.”
He continues, “I feel that in terms of, you know, stock photos of white people on cell phones—that area has been covered. As photographers, we can’t add anything to that. We’re trying to make ourselves a little more diverse.” So a HEX shoot might entail documenting a lesbian couple as they go about their day together, or photographing a hijab-wearing businesswoman, or visually recording a band while it rehearses.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT VISUALS
While HEX does create some custom work, many of their photographic series are self-initiated. They look for unique stories or brainstorm about images they think are missing from our visual landscape.
He adds, “I feel like we have a better chance of giving our photos that striking quality if we’re showing something real. It has to be something that that speaks to the viewer, something that people can relate to.”