This Conversation is featured in Gossamer Volume Eight: the Space issue, which is on newsstands and available to order now.
I always wanted to be a flight attendant when I was little. I can see now that I wanted to escape from family issues I experienced when I was young. At the time I didn’t know. I was just obsessed with traveling.
I was born in Barcelona and lived there until I was 22. After I finished my studies in film, I moved to New York, and I hated it. No one seemed interested in the personal side of people, only in what they did. I didn’t connect with the city at all. I was really young and still figuring out what I wanted. Then an opportunity came to move to Mexico City. I had never been there before, but I connected instantly with the place. The people were super welcoming, the beauty of the landscape, traveling, the essence—everything was instant love.
I moved there with my boyfriend but we broke up after a year. My family was like, “You can’t stay there by yourself, Mexico City is so dangerous, blah, blah, blah.” The typical perception that everyone has of Mexico is that it’s a difficult country for a woman to be in by herself. I was like, “No, I feel like I have to stay.” It was a tough decision to make, staying there by myself. But at the same time, the best one, because I was young and the city and country gave me the opportunity to learn about myself and my work, figure out what it was that I wanted to do, explore it, and eventually do it.
After living there for seven years, I moved here to L.A. with another now ex-boyfriend. I applied for an O1 visa, which was difficult because at the time I had not had that much work yet, and you need all these recommendation letters. By the time I got it, my boyfriend broke up with me. I was like, This is crazy. What am I going to do? It kept me in Mexico City for a couple months more and then the earthquake happened. The building next door collapsed. It swayed a bit towards ours. The landlord was like, “You can leave your stuff here, but you can’t live here until they tear down the rest of that building.” I took it as a sign from the universe that I had to go to L.A.
I’m now fully living in L.A., but I still travel every month to Mexico City. I feel it’s more free and less square than the U.S. Here, things are very organized, which doesn’t allow as much for things to happen naturally, or to meet people naturally, especially when traveling. Everything feels a little bit more planned. You have to make reservations for everything. The magic doesn’t happen spontaneously. So I keep going back to Mexico for that—for the spontaneity, to see my people, and to work.
I love learning and putting myself in situations that I’m uncomfortable in.
Thankfully, I love what I do. I’ve been super lucky and very privileged. I’m so grateful that I have had doors opened for me and many opportunities for work that I was excited about. I’ve never settled on only one specific style of photography because I like to do many different projects. I take photos of people and fashion, and then go to nature, or architecture. I would get bored if I did one thing over and over again. I love making my job fun.
I started taking photos of my trips. I was traveling a lot with no money and ending up in the most unexpected places. I would always find—and I still do find—something that attracted me, that felt special, that I wanted to shoot. I loved taking photos of architecture and weird buildings or whatever crossed my path. Eventually, the Wall Street Journal asked me to photograph a hotel in Mexico. I was like, Wow, this sounds like an actual job. The pay felt amazing at the time.
From there, people began picking up my work through social media and I started getting more commissions for magazines. I kept researching and doing different trips because that’s where my strongest work comes from. I like to mix between editorial commissions and personal travel and projects. Eventually the commercial work came too, which is very necessary to live in this country. But also I love it because I learn a lot. I love learning and putting myself in situations that I’m uncomfortable in. Makes for a good experience.
My first job with a bigger crew, I felt like, Whoa, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say. There are so many people here that I’m supposed to be telling what to do and I have no idea. That was a few years ago. I always just tell the truth, “Oh, wow. I don’t know how to do this, I don’t know how to do that.” I know how to take photos of my vision and that’s what I can bring to the table. Slowly I’ve learned the rest, but initially I needed to figure it out.
I like telling stories of real people and capturing them doing what they do in their normal life. When I moved to Mexico and broke up with my ex-boyfriend, I moved in with one of my best friends. She’s a florist, and I watched her work at her floral studio at home. I learned about so many plants and flowers, a world that I really had no idea about, and eventually helped her make arrangements and buy flowers at the flower market.
Recently, I did a story with her, my friend Miriam, and one of the vendors at the Jamaica Flower Market, which is in Mexico City. I’ve gone there so many times and I’ve seen the vendors so many times and I’ve talked to them so many times, but I don’t know their stories, I don’t know what their homes are like, or where the flowers come from. I’ve always been really, really curious.
I was an observer, looking at life as it happens, and digging a little bit deeper than the surface.
So one day I was like, “Let’s ask this lady if we could go take photos of her out of curiosity and try to get to know her more.” Then we could give the photos to her to do whatever she wanted with. She invited us to her house, an hour away from Mexico City, which is also where she grows all the flowers. She only grows in an organic, sustainable way, which is amazing because no one does that anymore. It’s very difficult to sell flowers in a market, you need a lot of quantity and abundance, but she does it with her son. He was so wonderful.
I went with my son, Rio, and my husband. Her routine begins with waking up at 6:00 AM to see the sun come out. We were there to watch with her. We took photos of her and her son picking flowers, packaging them, putting them in the car, and taking them to the market. She made tea for us, she held my baby. She showed him her flowers and it was such a tender moment. It was a beautiful experience with no expectations, no nothing. We were just there to meet this amazing woman who does this with her life.
I was an observer, looking at life as it happens, and digging a little bit deeper than the surface. We buy these flowers and Miriam creates beautiful arrangements and then someone else enjoys them at their house. But this woman is where it all begins. It’s really, really important to know where things come from.
If I wasn’t a photographer, I would be a florist. Or a landscape artist. I enjoy the manual work of touching soil and picking flowers. It also has an aesthetic element to it because you’re creating something for someone and you need to understand their personality. It’s almost like taking a portrait. An arrangement has a little bit of you, but it also has to have a little bit of the person that you’re making it for.
Flowers are amazing—the colors! When I see a crazy new shape or a new flower, I think, How is it possible that there’s such a beautiful thing on the planet? That’s why I love taking macro photos of flowers. There’s a little world in there that people don’t see. When you actually look at the inside, it’s even, it’s perfect. For example, in the pasiflora, which is the passion fruit flower, the pestles go in a zigzag shape, and then there’s another pestle that has three different colors. Just mind blowing.
My relationship with my mom was tough, and I felt like I wanted a second chance to make it right when I became a mother.
I got pregnant unexpectedly, but I always knew that I wanted to have kids eventually. My relationship with my mom was tough, and I felt like I wanted a second chance to make it right when I became a mother. Then it happened and I was like, “You know what? Sure, let’s do it.” It’s been the best thing that I’ve done.
It’s very exciting. I find time for being a mother, a photographer, a friend. I want it all. I’m super tough and demanding with myself. I put a lot of pressure on myself. Thankfully I love what I do and it brings me so much joy and Rio brings me so much joy.
My mom recently passed away and as I said, I had a very tough relationship with her. She struggled with mental illness and was basically unable to enjoy life because of it. I always struggled with that. She was unable to be happy or enjoy the little things of life. You don’t need to travel like crazy to be happy. You can find beauty and happiness in the small things. She is the person who has inspired me the most in that I was motivated to be the opposite of her. I’m trying to enjoy every part of my life, to squeeze so much out of it, and to do so many things. Life, it’s long, but at the same time it’s so short.
Having my mom as a reference reminds me I need to be happy in order to be able to make Rio happy, because I experienced what it was to have an unhappy mother. I didn’t understand when I was little—I thought that my mom was mean or that she was not interested in me. With age you come to understand a lot of things. There can always be a positive outcome from a negative thing. But I never had that beautiful relationship with motherhood growing up that so many of my friends had. Now I’m so happy to be able to experience that.
In terms of daily life, motherhood is wild. There’s way less time for procrastinating. I’m either working, traveling, being with my son, or being with my husband. I think I go to sleep at 8:30 PM every day, unless I have to edit or something. When I found out I was pregnant I told my then boyfriend, now husband, John, “If we do this, I need it to be 50-50, or sometimes 60-40, or sometimes on the other way around.”
The industry has to adapt to understanding that women want to be successful and also want to be mothers.
In the professional world, it’s tough because as women, we have really only 10 years of our lives to be successful and have children. For me, it would have never been before my thirties. So we have from 30 to 40 basically, and that’s super tough. I only started considering myself successful in my career four years ago.
The industry has to adapt to understanding that women want to be successful and also want to be mothers. I’m trying to change this in my own personal way, like, if I bring my child on set, it needs to be fine. I have so many friends that are like, “Oh yeah, I want to be a mother. But then my job ends. I have to stop working.” A kid is so much work. So, so much work. And being a successful woman is also very, very hard work because we have way fewer opportunities in general. It’s changing slowly, but it’s still like that.
Smoking indica at night... it’s like I’m in my own little world.
I smoke every night after the craziness of the day. After shooting or feeding Rio or whatever, I love smoking and relaxing and going to sleep. When you’re at peace with your stuff and you’re feeling content with life, weed can do so many good things for you.
I smoke joints at home and I love gummies for the plane. That’s my husband’s and my thing every time we fly, because we take so many planes. The time goes by so much faster. My younger brother just started a CBD brand called Only Green Leaf, and I started smoking a little bit of that. It’s been fun to explore. He’s such a nerd and will tell me everything about it.
I also love to get super deep sometimes when I smoke weed. I love theorizing and thinking—sometimes being silent or sometimes organizing the whole house or sometimes editing. There’s a thing for each moment and time. I know now when it makes sense for me. It’s a matter of knowing yourself and understanding how your brain works and how your body works.
It takes time and it also takes knowing the situation, knowing how comfortable you feel, and knowing what type of weed. I used to smoke a lot of sativa and hybrids, and now I’m smoking indica at night. I switched probably a year ago. I love it. I don’t know why people say, “Indica makes me a blob on the couch.” I’m like, “No, it makes me clean up. I love folding clothes. I love cleaning the dishes—it’s like I’m in my own little world.” I still love sativa when I’m with a small group of friends, super comfortable at home, theorizing, or just saying silly things and laughing non-stop.
It’s insane that it’s legal to smoke weed but there are so many people in prison for weed.
We always buy from the brand Evidence. Their tagline is, “We grow weed at a prison to help get people out of prison for growing weed.” It’s insane that it’s legal to smoke weed but there are so many people in prison for weed. It’s so unfair.
I still have a weird relationship with legalization because cannabis is not yet legal in Mexico and Spain. Sometimes I go somewhere and I still have to get it the dodgy way, which I don’t like. I like to be able to order something online or go to a store and feel good about it, not feel guilty or strange. All these different countries have different systems. Even in the U.S., you can fly out with weed gummies in one place, but you can’t arrive at another place with them.
It’s so bizarre. It should be legal in the same way alcohol is legal. We have to be responsible enough, and we have to be smart enough and they need to, I don’t know, trust society a little bit more to make their own decisions.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Pia Riverola photographed by Michael Friberg in Los Angeles. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.