When you walk into Fernandez Photography & Arts Gallery, the first thing that you will notice are the striking array of bright colors that adorn the walls, shelves, and ceiling. Unique handmade jewelry, shirts embellished with original photography, gorgeous artwork and other items from all over the world fill every corner. As you make your way through what feels like a tropical bazaar, you will find the most colorful and interesting element of the shop; owner, Gabe Fernandez.
Originally from Colombia, Gabe has been traveling – taking breathtaking photos, and collecting experiences from all over the world – for more than 10 years. He is one of those rare individuals that can make a lasting impression and brighten your mood just by talking to him for a few minutes. He is always happy to take a break from editing the many pictures that are always waiting for attention on his computer – or from working on the photo book that he has been assembling to pay tribute to New Smyrna Beach, to chat with his customers. In fact, the connections that are made, and the people he gets to meet through his work are a driving force behind Gabe’s decision to open his gallery.
When he enrolled in Daytona State College back in 2001 to study English as a supplement to business school in Colombia, he discovered their photography program almost by accident. He knew that he enjoyed snapping pictures while traveling, but he had no idea how talented he would become – or that he would one day make a living off of his photography. It was around this time that he began submitting some of his work to Womens Surf Style Magazine – a publication aimed at providing more coverage to women in the world of surfing. He loved that the magazine wasn’t packed with ads – instead printing stories submitted by regular people – and they loved his photographic storytelling in return. The rest, as they say, is history and he has now been working with them for over 10 years, traveling to women’s surf retreats to document their trips and activities all over Central America.
Along with this photography work, Gabe was excelling at his job as a personal banker that he had found after college – but his heart wasn’t in it. He knew this wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life. When more people started showing interest in his photos – offering to buy them – he got an idea. Gabe had always had an eye for interesting, special items that he came across while traveling, even from a very young age. He also knew that Colombia was home to lots of handmade jewelry and other goods that couldn’t be found anywhere else. In 2012 he decided to open a shop and attempt for the first time to make a living off of his personal photography, along with fair trade items from Colombia. He would offer beautiful handcrafted items that he would hand-pick in person instead of out of a catalogue.
Nowadays, Gabe is living his dream – he enjoys the nice, slow pace of New Smyrna Beach. Hanging out at the local farmer’s market, early morning bike rides on the beach, spending time with his family and enjoying live music at venues around town. Truly perceptive and artistic, Gabe knows that the best inspiration can appear out of the blue. He is always looking for new mediums to share his photos – such as on clothing, resin coasters & magnets, or printed on lamps – and he sees each of these new ideas as a way to make friends along the way. Each new product provides an opportunity to connect with those who love to create as he does – because it becomes a partnership to get the item onto the shelves. His days at the gallery are filled with visits from locals – eagerly checking in to see what new finds he has on display, and from vacationers from all over the world who he loves to trade stories with. Gabe will tell you, “pictures connect people to their memories.” This is especially true of his images of Volkswagens, which are the catalyst for much reminiscing about the 60’s from customers who used to own one of the iconic vehicles.
Ever humble, Gabe still views himself and his gallery as a work in progress. His primary focus for the future is to keep traveling, continuing to grow as an artist, and to seek out people making beautiful things in all parts of the world – so that he can bring them back to New Smyrna Beach and share them with all of the people who visit his shop.