Interview with Favourite Cuban Cigars Photographer on Instagram
The man himself - Robert, a.k.a - Hecho en Camera
Article updated and revamped on Wednesday 24th October 2018
CLASSIC HABANOS. CIGAR AND DRINK PAIRINGS. CIGAR HASHTAGS
We tracked down one of our favourite cigar photographers on Instagram, and arranged this exclusive interview. Robert, otherwise known as Hecho en Camera, lives in Toronto, Ontario, and shoots spectacular images of iconic cigars. From favourite Cuban Cigars online, to his preferred choice of camera, we discovered a photographer's take on capturing our beloved past time.
EGM CIGARS: How long have you been smoking cigars and what was the first one you tried?
HECHO EN CAMERA: I've been smoking premium cigars since 2010, with my first cigar being a Montecristo No 2. If you count the machine-made Backwoods from the convenience store we used to take on fishing trips, or the odd Cuban cigar brought back from friends who visited Cuba, that would take me back to about 2005. I always say I got into the cigar world seriously in 2010. I remember the night - I was photographing an event that featured a local cigar roller demonstrating his craft. I recall really appreciating his attention to the craft, and obvious passion. After a brief chat and of course smoking one of his hand rolled cigars, I was hooked.
When did you start taking photos?
I used to play around with my parents old Minolta 35mm film camera at a very young age. I was probably 10 or 12 (it's a bit sad that nowadays I have to specify that it was a *film* camera, but here we are). I took a couple of photography classes in high school and the darkroom gave me a creative outlet to funnel my energy through. I loved it so much that I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography at Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), which is Canada's largest and oldest educational institute for art and design.
What made you want to start taking photos of cigars?
I love cigars. It's easy to photograph what you love! I've photographed a variety of different subject matter professionally for the last decade or so. Smoking cigars was always my outlet for relaxation and distraction from life, and naturally I'd snap some shots of my experiences along the way. Even long before I discovered the various forums/pages/social media cigar communities, I just really enjoyed capturing images of what I was smoking. I'm very mindful that photographing my smoke does at times take away from my experience (in the cigar world I consider myself a smoker first, photographer second), so I make sure to put the camera down when I'm into a cigar and it's really something special. Times like that I don't even want to talk to anyone, or listen to music or anything that's happening in the room. I just zone out and enjoy the journey.
What camera do you use to take your photos?
This question is the one I'm asked most often. I've always looked at gear the same way a painter looks at a brush, or a chef looks at a knife. It's simply a tool that is only as good as the person holding it. These days any smartphone has the technical ability to capture high quality images that are capable of expressing ideas that move people. The newer phones are downright scary good! I think the saying is "the best camera is the one you have with you", and I strongly agree with that. With all that being said, and a bit of hypocrisy, I most often shoot with Canon bodies and lenses. The stuff you see on @hechoencamera is captured exclusively with DSLR's because that's the aesthetic I'm going for and I have to use gear that I trust won't fail on me when I'm creating images for clients. Still, I strongly believe everyone interested in photography should learn the fundamentals, and shoot every day. It's about seeing light, not the device the light travels through.
H. Upmann No. 2 Reserva Cosecha 2010 Cigar
Who is your favourite photographer?
WAY too difficult for me to choose just one. I'm afraid I could go on forever, so I'll take the easy way out and go with a couple of legends. Ansel Adams for his landscapes and Richard Avedon for his portraiture. If you get the opportunity to see either's work in a gallery setting, don't hesitate. Those images are just not the same when seen on screen or in a book. True masters!
Who is your biggest influencer on Instagram?
I try to take inspiration from everywhere. When it comes to "Cigar Instagram", I'm influenced by anyone who is making content with passion, actually smoking their cigars, and just generally "giving a damn". Brothers of the Leaf (BOTL)/ Sisters of the Leaf (SOTL) that are posting reviews, sharing ideas, or taking great photos - that inspires and influences me everyday.
Do you have a favourite cigar? If so, can you share a short review?
Again, way too difficult to choose just one. I have to give honorable mention to Trinidad Fundadores, Bolivar Coronas Gigantes, Ramon Allones Estupendos, and even my beloved Por Larrañaga Petit Corona /Por Larrañaga Montecarlo for a smoke that doesn't break the bank - I love the caramel note! I do however always go back to Cohiba Lanceros as my favourite. For my palate, I enjoy them a lot more with some age on them. An elegant smoke that takes you on a journey with transitions along the way. I love everything about the blend, and there's just something about a Lancero...makes me feel like I know what I'm doing!
A box of Cohiba Talisman Cigar - Limited Edition 2017
What does cigar smoking mean to you?
It means everything. The cigar community is a crazy thing. I've made so many lifelong friends and memories from cigars, and that really is something I stop and think about often. I don't think there's any other community like the cigar community. The amount of generosity, support, and camaraderie I've experienced is unbelievable.
What is your favourite pairing with cigar and spirit? Or perhaps you prefer a coffee/hot drink?
My favourite thing to drink with a cigar is actually sparkling water. I find it really clears and wakes up my palate. I enjoy rum or scotch with a cigar like anyone, and I love having a Hoyo de Monterrey or a Por Larrañaga with coffee...just a great pairing. If it's a special cigar. I always try to taste it with sparkling water. You've gotta try it if you haven't!
You started the hashtag #WCPC on Instagram. Can you explain to us what that is, what made you start it and how our readers can get involved?
#WCPC stands for Weekend Cigar Photo Challenge. I came up with #WCPC because I wanted to get the Instagram cigar community interacting with each other and creating content together. I'm the first to admit I was inspired from the #SOTLMafia. I've always thought that their themes were such a brilliant way to bring the community together on a different level. If you want to participate follow my account @hechoencamera and watch for the theme every weekend. I announce the theme on Friday, usually midday - Toronto time (EST). All you have to do is post a picture or video in the spirit of the theme, however you've interpreted it. Make sure you tag #WCPC and @hechoencamera so we can all see your post. It's been a blast, and while the goal is to share our experiences and thoughts, I'm also working on having prizes on some weekends soon.
Cohiba Talisman Limited Edition 2017 Cigar
Are there many cigar smokers in Toronto, Canada?
There is a decent number of us here in Toronto. Cigar smoking is probably not as popular as it was 10 years ago, and it's so tough to find a good place to smoke in the winter for many, but we make do. This past winter was particularly brutal!
Where are your favourite places to smoke in Toronto? Can you name a few cigar lounges/clubs that you enjoy smoking in?
That's another thing about Toronto - no smoking lounges allowed. We do our best, and gather where we can of course. My favourite place to smoke is wherever my friends are...luckily that is a few different places. Aside from that, I really LOVE smoking at my desk while I edit photos. It's like Pavlov's Theory - I'd need to sit still and focus on editing for a couple hours and I'd have a cigar. Now I often can't edit without smoking a cigar. It makes the work so much more enjoyable for me.
One final but important question: If you were a cigar what cigar would you be?
I'd be a custom roll of course.