There is a photographer who turns ostensibly ordinary moments into an unspoken narrative of something familiar, poetic, collectively unconscious, and mysterious. But also, filled with warmth and humanity. Her name is Isabel Grace Villar Dimaranan, or shorter IGVD (igvd.ME).
Isabel is a Los Angeles-based photographer with experience in both editorial and documentary photography. Coming from a design and digital media marketing background, those are the skills that she translates into her photography as well.
Combining Valuable Digital Knowledge With Experience On a Set
In a recent interview, we asked IGVD if she would skip some steps or go directly to photography if she was allowed to press restart on her career. If she had a chance to start out again what would she do differently?
“If I could do things over again, I probably would have started out with photography. Coming from a marketing and communications background, I think it would have been beneficial for me to take more photography classes in college in order to have a foundation of knowledge in commercial, professional photography.”
However, Isabel found that not having a formal background in photography has not limited her opportunities and isn’t necessarily required in order to succeed in the photography industry.
“The experience you gain on set is most valuable. In that sense, I wish that I had noticed my interest and dedication to photography earlier so that I could have reached out to people to assist and learn from other photographers at a younger age.“
Stories of The Cities She Strolls Through
Every detail on the street has a story to tell. People holding hands or walking alone, rushing or sitting, carrying flowers, passing by with their bags, waiting for someone. Some of them are worried, some of them are completely relaxed. Isabel tells their stories without words.
Speaking of documenting detailed experiences and those unmediated chance encounters, Isabel Grace Villar Dimaranan hopes to open others up to the shared human experience that is all around us in everything ordinary.
In IGVD’s portfolio, you can find portraits, street shots at dusk, and strolls from Hollywood and Chinatown. Also, sequences of a dreamy sunset canyon drive to Mt. Willson, lazy days at the beach, casual passers-by, and scenes from Hong Kong’s everyday life. In a word – street photography at its best.
Isabel tried to explain the nature of ‘candid’ photography on her blog:
“Privacy on the streets and in photography has always been such a polarizing and provoking question to others and myself.”
Her intention is to open others’ eyes to what’s around them if they look close enough.
“Everyone is unique in their own actions, appearance, job, reason. You can tell a lot about a person from just what they present on the streets, but there is also a sense of mystery with every subject.”
Photography As a Means of Building Connections
When asked what she photographs the most and why the answer is clear– the people.
“I find a photo to be more interesting when there are subjects involved. Whether it’s a man sitting at a bus stop or a woman walking to work, we can find a connection in our lives to these ordinary kinds of photos. It also fascinates me that we can infer a lot about a person simply by how they are seen in a photo. However subjective we might see a photo, there is always a sense of wonder about a person and their story from seeing them in an image.”
Isabel said that she always found photography to be an extension of building connections with the world and others around her, and it felt right that she was able to express herself through visual art. As she continues to take images she hopes to connect with more people. She wants to be able to make them feel special in front of a camera.
The Healing Power of Photography
It is noteworthy that photography had a therapeutic role in Isabel’s life. One of Isabel’s main driving factors for pursuing photography was her struggle with mental health about which she speaks openly:
“For years it was difficult for me to get out of bed, let alone have a fulfilling job. I was working in tech design when I first finished college, but I was itching for more. I wanted to be able to show my true self to others, and it was difficult. It took me 5 years of failing and trying to get myself back up again. Before the pandemic, an opportunity came to me. I started working with a woman I really admire and she helped me pursue exactly what I wanted – photography. “
No Excuse For Not Having a (Personal) Website
We all know digital presence is everything, so we asked Isabel to share her experience, hacks, and tips for creating a website.
In Isabel’s experience, having a personal website is not only important to gain new eyes and followers for your work. It is also important to showcase your work to people you know. That’s where she finds having a website crucial to acquiring new clients.
Isabel states that the excuse she hears about not having a website is that artists are already present on platforms such as Instagram or Twitter:
“Although these platforms can definitely be useful tools for circulating your work, having a website can elevate the type of work you’ve done and represents your professionalism and commitment to your work. Having a website or blog could also mean ways to communicate with audiences in a long format. It gives you the freedom to express yourself in your own space. It is created to be personalized to your taste as well as your audiences’ needs.”
Tips For Aspiring Young Photographers
In line with her life motto that says: ”Open your eyes to see”, Isabel’s piece of advice to anyone who is starting out in the design/photography business is to always pay attention and give way to the things that bring you energy.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work in different areas – from social media to marketing, to graphic design and photography. It’s important to make sure the work is in line with what you are passionate about and are interested in. That makes it much easier to grow into what you aspire to be.”
Still, you have to learn to adapt
Since things are changing in the world, especially career-wise, we asked Isabel Grace Villar Dimaranan if there is something she wishes she’s done work-wise to prepare for the current situation on the market. The answer is simple – It’s difficult to prepare for unexpected things to happen.
“I believe it’s most important to be flexible and adaptable in times where things are changing rapidly. In my sphere of the world, the increase of freelance positions has really affected how I do work and acquire new clients.”
Turn to long-form content such as blogging
We also had a question about the most neglected part of a personal website that she finds very important. IGVD explained that the longer form can be very beneficial:
“I find that in this era, we have abandoned the blog in exchange for short-form content and in-app platforms. I’ve found that the most useful part of my website has become my blog because it lets me communicate with my audiences in a way that makes the experience more intimate with my work.”
IGVD’s blog is the place where she tells her stories created with her eyes, head, and heart.
“As a photographer, I find it important to have a space where you can show your work online in the way that you want, rather than confined to a platform’s capabilities. No matter what field you’re working in, a website can be an invaluable tool to help capture audiences and give them an immersive experience in your work. A website allows you to show off your personality and provide people with up-to-date information, such as utilizing a blog.”
Isabel’s Plans and Dreams
It can be said that fashion photography is Isabel’s new passion. We wanted to find out what is so attractive about that industry.
“Fashion photography has been a new and exciting challenge for me in the past year. It has strengthened my skills in studio lighting as well as shooting outdoors. I find it a versatile place for opportunity, working with various models and shooting in different styles from e-commerce to lifestyle and editorial. I would love to continue working in fashion for as long as I am able to.”
Interacting with a model, creating a mood board to present what kind of aesthetics is required, and taking care of good vibes on the set are essential prerequisites for successful fashion photography.
“It always helps to communicate that you want them to show their personality and do what they feel most comfortable with to show their best side. A good playlist in the background can also help keep the model more comfortable with the setting.”
Investing in resources to create more powerful images
IGVD started photography at 20 but has already exhibited her work at various shows in museums and galleries. Since she has already published 3 mini thematic magazines, she is hoping to publish more in the years ahead, primarily about LA and Chinatown culture. What is more, her dream is to go to Paris and study at a photography school for documentary photography.
“If I could do anything differently, it would be to prioritize gathering my own tools and resources in the beginning. It can be difficult for photographers to own all of their own equipment, but my goal for the future is to have my own arsenal of tools and gear that will allow me to create powerful images in the way that I envision them. “
Creative domain extension for creative people
We couldn’t help but ask why she chose the .ME extension for her domain name.
IGVD explained that it is much more appealing, personalized, and creative than a more general .com extension:
“It was a conscious decision to choose the .ME extension. I chose .ME for my domain because I knew my website would be a representation of myself. A “.com” seemed too generic and .ME had a creative flair that I could show off to potential clients. I would be showing people my work on my website, and .ME signifies that this website is about me and my craft.”
A quote by photographer and documentary filmmaker Rober Frank says: “There is one thing the photo must contain – the humanity of the moment.” That’s exactly what Isabel does. She captures those moments from running away.
It was a pleasure hearing about your work, Isabel. Thank you for choosing .ME to express your creativity!