Out of all of the stars, Alan Mercer has photographed and interviewed, Machete icon, Danny Trejo stands out as one of his favorites!
By Elia Esparza
Alan’s interview blogs will now be featured on Latin Heat along with our other amazing family of bloggers.
Involved with portraits for over 30 years, Alan started out as a painter and sketch artist, endorsed by Andy Warhol. In 1997, Alan decided to concentrate on celebrity photography, and in a move that was pretty cutting edge at the time, launched his web site in the hopes that he would be discovered. It worked.
It wasn’t long before director, James Moll found Alan’s website and hired him to photograph his portrait for the DVD The Last Days. From there, Alan was tapped for a special project to assemble and photograph Steven Spielberg and six other great directors. Since arriving to Hollywood n 2001, Alan has been called upon the biggest names in music, film, and television.
Since landing in Hollywood in 2001, he has gone on to photograph some of film, TV and music industry’s super stars. In recent months, Alan photographed and interviewed rising star actresses—the sister Sixtos—Alicia Maria, Andrea and Veronica, along with Imagen Awards nominee actors Oscar Torre and Robero Sanchez, along with veteran actor Randy Vasquez. But they are not the only Latinos in his gallery– Lupe Ontiveros, Wilmer Valderrama, Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, Javier Bardem, Robert Rodriguez, Steven Bauer and Rita Moreno among many others.
So few Latino photographers or “portrait artist” as he likes to call himself, have gained the level of success as Alan has. We interviewed him and hope you’ll join us in welcoming him.
LATIN HEAT: By the way, I had no idea you are Latino!
Alan Mercer: I told you awhile back but it just kind of flew right over you. [Laughs]. My mother is Latino.
LH: Is she Mexican?
AM: She’s Chicana.
LH: There you go, you can’t get any more Latino than that! Did you start your Hollywood career as a photographer or did you have other professional endeavors?
AM: By the time I got to Hollywood in 2001, I had been a professional photographer in Dallas beginning in 1996. I started out as photographer in 1980, but got sidetracked with drawing and painting so I was a gallery artist in the 1980’s and early 90’s. But photography started taking over again by 1992. I did large renderings of celebrities and commissioned pieces. In 1988, Hollywood star [and one of the first women directors in Hollywood] Ida Lupino commissioned me to do a portrait of Olivia de Havilland as a birthday gift for Miss de Havilland. It was so exciting to have women of that caliber liking my art! I received a lovely compliment from Miss de Havilland as well.
LH: Do you recall your first celebrity you photographed?
AM: Yes! It was in May 2000 in Austin, Texas with the now iconic Mr. Danny Trejo. No one knew his name back then but when I saw Desperado he stood out so strong even though he didn’t utter a word of dialogue in the movie. I knew he was going to be a star. Turns out he is not only a star but a gifted actor as well. I have photographed Danny several times through the years and look forward to the next time we shoot.
LH: Working with celebrity personalities can be touchy… have you had any nightmare divas or divos in your crosshairs and how did you maneuver around their pickiness?
AM: I have only had a very few, thankfully. The first thing I do is to be quiet and stay still. I remind myself this has nothing to do with me and that I am fine. I then attempt to feel compassion for someone who is clearly having a bad day or hour or life. I retreat inwards and get through it careful never to ADD to the stress this person is in. I try to do anything I can to make this person feel more secure and happy. Sometimes it passes quickly and is just a momentary thing and sometimes it’s deeply who this person is. After I leave I tell myself I never have to go through that again! Then I forgive them and move on. I don’t hold grudges.
LH: Who haven’t you photographed that is in your wish list?
AM: Honestly, there are so many great artists that I’d love to work with. I somehow have an interest in a wide variety of creative people. I love pop culture people too. I love all the A-List Stars and would be grateful for any of them. However, my heart lies often with the people who have been around a long time and are still going strong like the great character actors. I will give you some names of Latin stars that are in my heart and I would love to photograph. In no particular order here are some men, Edward James Olmos, Esai Morales, Clifton Collins Jr., Nicholas Gonzalez, Jimmy Smits, Andy Garcia, Jay Hernandez, Wilmer Valderrama and Benjamin Bratt. Women include: Salma Hayek, Jennifer Lopez, Penelope Cruz, Ana Barbara, Charo, America Ferrera, Constance Marie, Eva Longoria, Eva Mendes, Kate del Castillo, and so many more! [He chuckles]
LH: In other words, all of Latinowood! A lot of these people read Latin Heat so be careful what you wish for! You’re friends with many of your clients—tell us about one in particular you treasure and always will?
AM: Seriously, I have been so blessed to make a few friends and I treasure all of them but I will go back to Danny Trejo, who treated me like a member of his family from day one. So much of my Hollywood life traces back to Danny. He is the root of my photography career. I will always cherish my memories and my friendship with Danny.
LH: You recently interviewed and photographed a few Latino actors, any thing stands out interviewing talent or talent of color than an Anglo client?
AM: Though it is not obvious, I am half Latino so I came to Hollywood specifically to photograph Latino and all ethnicity groups in Hollywood. Nothing against white people who I love, but it’s always been so constantly white for so long. I celebrate diversity in all forms. The bottom line is people are people so no I do not notice anything particularly different about Latinos. Everyone wants to make it on their own terms no matter what color your skin is or what language you speak.
LH: You’re based in Texas and commute from Hollywood to Nashville to New York throughout the year, why not live in one of these major entertainment hubs?
AM: Right now I must remain in Texas as I have a very important job I am doing and that is caring for my elderly father who is suffering from Parkinson’s and dementia. When this time is over, I will evaluate my options and see what is next. I don’t think about the future and I stay so busy living in the moment. I miss the constant excitement and opportunities of L.A. but I’m three hours away and if I need to, I can be there for a day or two almost anytime. There are real benefits to where I live now. I have the opportunity to photograph these legendary musicians like Flaco Jimenez, Arturo Sandoval and Little Joe Y La Familia.
LH: You photograph a lot of Nashville superstar country singers… are you into country? [Teasing]
AM: I have always loved Country music and it has been my intention to photograph many of them and since I’m here where they all are, why not? I’m trying to get to Willie Nelson! [He laughs] I have an eye on Dolly Parton but the timing must be right and I will probably have to go to Nashville for that.
LH: For young photographers wishing to follow in your footsteps, what advice would you give?
AM: Shoot. Shoot. And, shoot some more. Keep developing a personal style and be hungry and go after people. Be professional and reliable and easy to get along with. The worst diva or divo experiences I have had were due to make-up artists or stylists or someone behind the scenes. Be on time for every job and be willing to do more than you think you should. Be nice. If you have an eye you will find opportunities.
LH: What’s your opinion about paparazzi photographers?
AM: I admire the tenacity the paparazzi have but I am not one of them. Their motives are very different than mine. To me there work is not about photography, it’s about being at events and in front of restaurants and being obnoxious at times. I could never do that. I celebrate people and their careers in a different way.
LH: Anything you’d like to add as we introduce you to our readers on Latin Heat?
AM: Only that I appreciate the opportunity to share what I do with your readers.
Thank you, Alan Mercer! You’re the first celebrity photo artist that I’ve had the honor of interviewing.
Don’t miss Alan’s celebrity interviews published on his popular blog. Check out his website and interviews, HERE.
Alan Mercer’s gallery of photos include:
Steven Spielberg, Etta James, Smokey Robinson, Gilles Marini, Mamie Van Doren, Julie Newmar, Priscilla Presley, Sally Kellerman, Sean Young, John Schneider, Carol Channing, Wanda Jackson, Gregg Allman, Jane Lynch, Thelma Houston, Rona Barrett, Linda Gray, Dayanara Torres, Jackée Harry, Michelle Phillips, Ruth Buzzi, Danny Trejo, Phyllis Diller, George Jones, Steven Bauer, Maria Muldaur, Lorenzo Lamas, Britt Ekland, Paul Williams, Lalo Schifrin, Arturo Sandoval, Melba Moore, Rosanne Barr, Gabriel Iglesias, Frederick Forrest, Franco De Vita, Paulina Rubio, Javier Bardem, Jean Simmons, Jennifer Lewis, Cheech Marin, Leslie Jordan, Luis Guzman, Lynda Carter, Mary Wilson, May Pang, Pedro Almadovar, Robert Rodriquez, Ricky Martin, Rita Moreno, and BJ Thomas.