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The Creative Class: Pia Riverola

Nov 15, 2017

Wouldn’t life look a lot better through a rose tinted lens? Pia Riverola seems to think so. The Barcelona born photographer, and recent Los Angeles transplant, has a serious case of wanderlust. We first came across Pia through her Instagram account, and were struck by her ability to simplify her photographs down to their essentials - clean lines, geometric shapes, and spectacular colors. And apparently we’re not the only ones. So far, Pia’s photographs have been featured in Vogue, Wallpaper, The Wall Street Journal, Harper’s Bazaar, among many others. DSTLD sat down with Pia in Los Angeles while she was settling in to discuss her journey and what’s next in her career. 

Shot for Vogue. Image courtesy of Pia Riverola.

DSTLD: Tell us a little bit about your background. Where are you from and what brought you to Los Angeles? 

PR: I was born in Barcelona, grew up and studied there. Six years ago, I moved to New York City for school and move into art direction after studying photography and film in Barcelona. From there I moved to Mexico City and lived there for four years where I started my professional career. My agency is based in Los Angeles, and I've been working with a few international magazines like Vogue UK, Wallpaper, etc. so I've always been intrigued by living here in Los Angeles and and I thought maybe it was time to make a move. But, I still have my apartment in Mexico City, and I'll travel back and forth because I still love it there. I started from zero in Mexico and very grateful for the support people have given me, and how trusting they've been of my work so I'm very emotionally and professionally attached to the city, but I have to keep moving forward. 

Shot for The Wall Street Journal. Image courtesy Pia Riverola.

DSTLD: What makes Los Angeles the next place for you to move forward, whether in life or in your career? 

PR: I love it. To start out in Mexico is great, but fashion and publications are way smaller in Mexico and not as internationally known. I've already done it all. I want to keep going back to shoot travel stories, which I get a lot of jobs for, but there really aren't any opportunities to explore in terms of fashion photography in Mexico. It's growing super fast, which is why I started and want to keep going back because I want to be a part of the growth and evolution, but I also feel like I need to be somewhere else to explore new things that aren't possible in Mexico quite yet. I was a little done with living in a very noisy. crowded city. When I traveled outside of the city, I was inspired but when I was actually working during the week I found it no longer inspired me the way it once did. I feel like I've already discovered it. I love landscapes, nature, being next to flowers, the sea, and Mexico City doesn't have that. You never think about how important it is to be by the ocean, but when you no longer have it, you miss it.

Images courtesy of Pia Riverola.

DSTLD: The last we checked you had almost 40k followers on Instagram. Have you found having such a strong presence on social media has accelerated your career? 

PR: Instagram helps so much. Basically, right now for me my Instagram is my website. I have my website because i have to have one, but with Instagram you can actually see what people like, which is great. It helps get quick feedback on what you're doing. People reach out to me over Instagram either through direct message or they email me after finding my Instagram profile. Some people tell me I spend too much time on it, but it's my job. I want to be posting on a regular basis so people know what know what I'm doing and can experience my work. 

Image courtesy of Pia Riverola.

DSTLD: The main subjects in your photographs have to do with architecture and nature, but it looks like you're making your way into the fashion space. How do you plan on combining these elements in your future photographs?

PR: One of the reasons I moved to Los Angeles is because I really want to do more fashion. I do some now, and I love it, but I really want my work to be in a very natural way and integrated in what I'm already doing. I almost always shoot in outdoor locations so I want to continue doing this work as I expand into fashion photography. I'm involved in two projects where we're looking into shooting a fashion story but in architectural space. I'm not super interested in studio work. It's not what I love the most. Working with natural light, for me, is the best thing, and exploring new places and showing people something else besides just a model in clothes. I want to show an experience, and a juxtaposition. It's all about balance.

"Working with natural light, for me, is the best thing, and exploring new places and showing people something else besides just a model in clothes. I want to show an experience, and a juxtaposition. It's all about balance." 

Images courtesy of Pia Riverola.

DSTLD: What do you draw inspiration from when shooting? 

PR: Since I studied film I'm very drawn to directors. I love Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni's aesthetic, he's amazing. I've seen everything. It's classy, beautiful and colorful. If we're talking about inspirations now, I really love Viviane Sassen. She does a lot with fashion integrated in nature. British photographer Martin Parr is amazing because I love what the photos convey. There's an element of irony that I like. I also love the American painter Edward Hopper. He's a big reference for me because of how he works with light and shadows in his art, and the geometric architecture he paints.

Image courtesy of Pia Riverola.

DSTLD: One of our core values at DSTLD is having a creative streamlined uniform. What are you most comfortable in when shooting?

PR: I prefer black, and jeans. I feel super comfortable, but adding an element of heels or a leather bag. I like to mix it up a little bit by being comfortable, but also elegant. Both at the same time are the most important. My DSTLD denim skirt, sweater and silk cami all together look amazing. They're simple but with a little added accessorizing it's a unique look with a twist. 

DSTLD: What do you do to stay inspired and grounded so you can produce your best work?

PR: For me it has a lot to do with traveling. Every time I travel for work or for fun I always get time to myself. Even if I'm shooting something totally different, I get the time to walk around and see things and get inspired by the place I'm in. Light, color and texture are the most important for me, and what I notice. I've tried going out and not bringing my camera, and looking at things without the lens. I've done it a few times. I went to Tokyo once, and since Japan is like a new planet, I left the camera just to experience the city. I thought trying to live and take photos at the same time would be too much, but of course, I instantly regretted it. While I was experiencing the city, I realized my actual way of experiencing is through the camera. 

"I realized my actual way of experiencing is through the camera."

 Image courtesy of Pia Riverola.

DSTLD: Your photographs have the quality of paintings, which we gather is due to shooting with film. In today's digital age, why the choice to use film? 

PR: I use film 90% of the time, but there are some times and jobs that require digital. With fashion photography, clients want to see what's going on that very second. I always say I'm going to shoot both, and once my clients see the film they'd rather use those. It's what always happens. Digital is useful, it's quick, and your clients can see what you're doing. But when I'm doing my personal projects, I only use film. When I'm shooting with film I'm very aware of what I want to shoot, and what I don't, whereas with digital it's just shoot shoot shoot and the selection process is awful. With film, I know I'm going to shoot what I really want to shoot and that's it. Besides the texture, color and the magic of film, I love not remembering what I shot and being surprised when it's developed. I love the in-between time when you shoot and when you get the prints because you completely forgot what you shot. Your brain gets time to disconnect in order to be neutral and critical, so I can see the images with fresh eyes. 

Shot for Wallpaper. Image courtesy of Pia Riverola.

DSTLD: Though you're newly transplanted here in Los Angeles, do you have any travel recommendations for our readers visiting Mexico City?

PR: I would say to stay at Casa Carlota. I would recommend Parnita, an amazing taco restaurant where the tacos are well thought out and well made. My friend owns it using her mother's recipes, and her mother is there always saying hi and talking to the customers who come in. I always bring friends there because you eat and drink forever and it's an incredible experience. I would visit any of Luis Barragan's architecture such as Cuadra San Cristobal, Casa Gilardi or Casa Luis Barragan. He's one of the most important architects in Mexico. He designs his houses with light, color and air in mind, and his buildings are perfect for people who appreciate design. 

Click here for more of Pia's work. 

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