Travel photographer Pia Riverola was born and raised in Barcelona and is currently based between Los Angeles and Mexico City. Her work focuses on editorial and commercial projects for clients like i-D, Nike, Google and Airbnb, featuring nature and cultures around the world.
Were you always into photography? How did you start your career?
I studied film in Barcelona but had always been interested in photography classes more than anything. I, later on, went to NY and did some documentary classes too, and was shooting some editorial stories for magazines and a few other commissioned works. After that, I moved to Mexico City and that was definitely when everything started feeling more serious, I was extremely inspired by the culture in Mexico so much that I was constantly taking photos and traveling around the country and that’s how I started developing my career and working with clients.
How would you describe your style?
I’m naturally drawn by color and light, but I work mostly out of instinct, my eye is constantly looking for stories that feel harmonious and related to beauty in any way. My style also varies depending on my emotions and what I’m feeling at a certain time, so some series will be more lively and aesthetically pleasing while others will be more serene and moody and will try to communicate my inner feelings. There’s an element of composition and subject-matter that also changes throughout time and evolves as I grow older, when I started taking photos it was less about the storytelling, but more and more lately I like telling visual stories instead of capturing only single images.
You seem to travel constantly. What is it like to work around the world the way you do?
I am extremely grateful for my work and being able to travel as much as I do. It does get exhausting at times, especially when there’s long projects or back-to-back travel shoots, but I still enjoy every bit of it. I constantly find myself excited to get in a car or on a plane to new and unknown places. That’s something that doesn’t change. There is always that feeling of wondering what new things I’m going to see and experience, what new people I’m going to meet. It is an extraordinarily inspiring way of living and my photography is nourished by discovering new places and cultures. Even when I’m on commercial shoots around the world, I try to get some off time at the end of the shoot day to go and explore and shoot for my personal archive.
What’s your favourite place to visit or your best shoot location?
I loved shooting in Peru. We were up north in the mountains of Cusco for a couple of days and then flew to the desert by the sea in Paracas, so it was a wide range of landscapes and beautiful culture to discover. The main focus of the client was portraying the local traditions and experiences, so it gave me a glimpse of the diversity in the country.
Do you ever find yourself wanting to stay in one place for a while?
There are times in which I do miss my routines and having a time and space in the same place but my preference is always more towards traveling. There will be time for settling down later on.
You’re based between LA, Mexico City and Barcelona, right? How do you find having your life split between 3 countries? How do you spend your time?
I’m mainly based between Mexico City and Los Angeles right now. I lived in Mexico City full time for five years and a couple of years ago I decided to move to Los Angeles. At the beginning, my time was more or less split evenly between the two and when that’s not possible because of other travel, I try to always spend at least one week a month in Mexico City. Anytime I have a shoot in Europe I try to stop by Barcelona to see my family and friends, and I like spending a month in the summer over there too.
How do you keep inspired when you’re at home? How do you find new things to shoot or find ways to see and shoot things differently?
This is the longest I’ve stayed in the same place for the first time in a few years, so I’ve definitely been working on staying inspired in Los Angeles during lockdown. I’ve tried to use this time to explore my neighborhood and surroundings, and handle it in the same way I do when I travel. There’s always something to shoot, interesting times of the day, light and moments that happen here too, so I’m focusing on that now. I go on long walks or hikes and look around in the same way I look around when I’m traveling. I pick flowers to make arrangements and shoot the process or if I’m with a group of friends having lunch in my garden, I’ll shoot that too. It’s a bit like documenting my own life at the moment, since I’m not able to document others.
Do you have any favourite pieces of equipment? What’s your go-to lens when travelling?
I love medium format cameras like Pentax and Fujifilm. I try to always travel with those even if they are a bit heavier than 35mm cameras, the quality and textures make a difference to me. I love shooting on a 50mm lens as it allows me to have a good distance for travel portraits but also get nice wider landscape shots.