“I believe much of my work is about understanding my own self through photographing other people.” The works in photographer Ysa Pérez’s debut solo exhibition Wish You Were Here bears witness to her search for her voice and identity.
Ysa studied Advertising Photography at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Her education emphasized the technical aspect, providing her access to the latest photographic equipment. Although Ysa was initially intimidated by the knowledge required to operate the gear, the experience helped her become well-rounded. While Ysa credits her education in realising her love for photography, there are many factors in her early formative days that have shaped her work. Early in her career, she drifted through New York City’s diverse crowd, shooting and immersing herself in different circles. “I always gravitated towards people. I was a chameleon to groups.” Growing up, Ysa felt lost and alone. Integrating herself into the world of her subject satiated this loneliness. Meeting people with her camera in hand made her feel empowered. Her time in NYC formed her network eventually leading her to collaborations with different artists. These photographs marked her early portfolio. Additionally, her time at GQ and Nylon after graduation instilled the grit required to work in print publications.
Ysa’s first major influence is her mother, whom she considers a consummate artist. When looking through old family photographs taken by her mother, she realized her knack for photography was something they both shared. Seeing this connection bridged the emotional distance between the two of them.
Ysa photographs what interests her: live music, social events, interesting destinations. “I’m interested in documenting what’s there… I am fascinated with being a fly on the wall.” During her off days, she prefers an unobtrusive approach to photography, referring to this as her “photo therapy” opting to wander around with her camera and see what she spontaneously encounters. The simplicity of Ysa’s preferred approach aligns with her philosophy that photographic equipment should not define the outcome of her shoots. Her work process also hinges heavily on her own intuition and ability to make something happen even in scarcity.
Portraits define the bulk of Ysa’s editorial oeuvre. More pared down sessions, however, allow her to focus on the connection with her collaborator and her desire to showcase a unique moment with them through her lens. The images in this exhibition show Ysa’s versatility over the past years; from following supermodel Adriana Lima and the Miami City Ballet to bonding with her parents through photography.
Recently, Ysa has had a shift in her motivations. She has come to see the deep-set insistence to rely only herself. Her frame of mind was driven largely by her fear of asking for help. By learning to reach out to others, she believes she can take her upcoming work into new directions. Currently, she contributes some of her time to her martial arts community, where she both practices and photographs. “I am at a point in my work where making other people happy through my photographs is very fulfilling. That’s what inspires me… how photography makes people feel about themselves.”