We had the good fortune of connecting with Isabel Padilla and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Isabel, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk in my career presents itself in a very ambiguous way. Risk might be taking a week off, traveling for work, rejecting a gig or even taking it.
I believe the reason why I even live in the city in which I do (NYC) is because of previously taking risks by traveling by myself, living in foreign countries being young, and sensing that being ambitious means not always knowing what making a decision will convey.
As a cinematographer, visual style is the most important skill I must have. I’m lucky enough to have developed some type of specific style, it being based on surreal night atmospheres. Even the fact that I developed this style comes from risk, as I found it through taking photos alone at night since I was 18 or younger. That obviously for a young woman is a risky choice, that I decided to take in order to follow what my artistic language was, if I decided not to take the risk of walking alone at night in several cities, some known, other unknown; I would not be the artist I am today.
On a more present note, me being now 25 and full time working on film, I feel like I still take that same literal risk but I have become more cautious with others. Again, being a young woman in a foreign country can be difficult, and unfortunately I have faced some job decisions that have been scary and that made me stop and think a bit more before I take a job in order to protect myself. I do not want, in fact, I reject staying at home not doing what I need and want to do because of my gender, and I will remain thinking this way; however, I have learned that in order to do so I have to triple check everything before a job and make sure I know who I’ll be with, who they are, and where I’ll be.
The conclusion I arrive to after the years is to follow your gut artistically, but also instinctively. Do whatever you need to do to show your voice; but also be mindful as any industry in the arts has a very blurry border between professional and personal and you are the only one taking care of yourself when your goals are high. There is a lot of competition and many will make you feel like it’s not worth fighting for, but at the end of the day, be surrounded by the people who support you and who you support, and remember that you know what you do is what you love doing.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
What you are most proud of or excited about?
It might be simple, but the fact that I can afford to uniquely work off what I chose is such a privilege, and I feel so lucky I have been able to get to do so. I have a lot of goals and much more to do and say, and I’m glad that it still feels right to have chosen the path I have. I have been able to meet so many incredibly talented and great people, who inspire me and motivate me to do more. Strangers reach out to me because they like what I do and that still shocks me, the power of connectivity in my generation is fascinating and I find it incredible that someone I don’t know feels connected to my images as I feel connected to other people’s work.
I feel really lucky that I studied at home (Madrid) and had time to grow a personal style that I still today love playing with in a different country. I love being inspired at night and painting with light. I love that I sometimes find myself loving something I’ve made.
How did you get to where you are today professionally?
Since I was little I knew I was creative, I didn’t know however that could be a job. As soon as I found out through my friend Bárbara when I was 16 my ambition grew and my view of the world was much more exciting. Me being from a small city at the south of Spain, not many people were following a creative career and I had to be very convincing to my family to be able to study this. Thankfully they were understanding and I transitioned from wanting to be a writer to grabbing my phone and taking photos of everything I liked. I had done so since I was a teen but thanks to social media and external validation I felt more encouraged to pursue this language that I feel I was destined to. I finally bought a camera, started meeting strangers to take photos, and loved it more and more. Someone once asked me to shoot a film and then I understood that was what I wanted. Thanks to my travels I developed a very specific and dreamy dark visual style that brought me some exhibitions and publications, which turned my friends liking my work into thousands of strangers staring at something I took one second a few years ago.
I am really grateful to photography and how therapeutic it is for me, I love that it isn’t my job and that it is a way for me to get my mind off things as it also inspires my film work and reminds me of what I do.
A few years ago I moved to NYC and was lucky to work with really great directors, and direct myself a few pieces. I ended up shooting at the Empire State Building on the first year I was here and getting a music video I shot and directed to be viral thanks to social media during the pandemic. I am now ready to keep growing and can’t wait to meet others who keep inspiring me as well.
Was it easy?
Of course not! But also yes! I am sure any career implies a lot of effort. Ina. way it’s been easy because I’ve had a very supportive environment between my family and friends. And I am very proud of my country (Spain) that is in my opinion the best place to be from and has prepared me to face any situation in the best way possible.
It’s also been really hard because I am trying to be part of an industry that is extremely male dominated. I am a Spanish 25 years old female cinematographer living in a foreign country. I am obviously constantly disrespected at work because of my gender and age. Even the fact that I dress in a way that doesn’t hide my body makes it harder for me. It’s hard for me to be listened to, when I know if I was a white man it would be really different. Luckily, I know my worth and where my limits are set. I know I love my work and I know I have a lot of future; I won’t let some insecure men ruin that. But it can be really frustrating at times and I have to remind myself sometimes that it will get better.
What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Uncountable. I have been either taking photos or shooting videos for almost ten years now, which implies my teen and college years, where I became who I am.
I have learned to respect myself, to delegate, that it is okay to take some time off creating and doing more technical jobs, that I have to work not only to create but to pay rent, that I need some headspace in order to create what I want to create, that photography is where my mind finds peace, that I want to always have fun when I work.
What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I don’t need my name to be loud, but I would love for people to watch / see my images and feel something. I love hearing what people think about when they see my photography and visual work. If I can inspire people then I’ll be happy.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
As I live in NYC now, I would probably show them whatever touristic places they have in their list and then show them what I love about being here.
The Staten Island ferry is gorgeous at golden hour. Bushwick has the best going out spots, Flushing and Corona have the best food. Prospect is the prettiest park. The water by Two Bridges is a really beautiful and somehow empty spot.
On a more unpopular note, I really like FiDi and how it is the only maze in NYC.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I owe my journey to the multiple sources of inspiration I have found throughout my life, some really important ones to me being Christopher Doyle, Elsa Bleda, Ren Hang, Liam Wong or Zaha Hadid. To the friends who trusted me and encouraged me to start shooting. To the many cities I have been lucky enough to visit. And most importantly, to my family, who has not only inspired me and supported me, but whose pride creates my own.
Molchat Doma BTS by Stephanie Chang Model in subway Layne Paradis Willis Actor in Tancevat Pedro Tamames