Meet Ysa Pérez

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Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico but raised in Rochester, New York, Ysa moved to NYC in 2008 while she was an Advertising Photography student at RIT to intern at Nylon Magazine. After graduating, in 2010-2011 she worked as a photography assistant at GQ Magazine under Photo Director Dora Somosi, supporting the photography department. Off the clock, she’d photograph musicians, rappers, DJs and nightlife which led to shooting assignments for magazines such as Spin, Vibe, XXL, New York Mag & Bloomberg Businessweek. She currently lives in Miami Beach both photographing and training in martial arts full-time.

Ysa's favorite cameras

Top, American Apparel ; Jacket, Kenzo ; Pants, Ralph Lauren

on her morning routine

I wake up everyday around 6.45am. I like to accomplish a lot of things in the day and when you’re in a place where the weather is inviting like Miami, you just want to be up. I usually start the day looking at my phone, doing my emails or I’ll just go straight to the beach and meditate.

on her start in photography

I took a basic 10th grade photography class and I shot a black & white photo of a gloomy set of railroad tracks and my teacher acknowledged it was good. That was it until college. These two students at RIT were in need of a model and reached out to me on Myspace (so dated). At the time, I was undecided at University at Buffalo, but seeing their space, the facilities and equipment, I was convinced I could probably do that. From there I transferred to The Rochester Institute of Technology for Advertising Photography.

I always had a good eye and have been using photoshop since I was like 12, my mom was a graphic designer, but when I started at RIT I took really shit pictures. I mean, you’re experimenting and you have no clue how things work, what lenses to use, what you’re trying to say through your work - it’s a process. It took me almost as long as I’ve been doing this professionally, to now completely be confident in the way I shoot. I never second guess what I’m framing, and when to press the button.

Shoes, City Snapper


on how she shoots

I work candidly based off the energy between me and what’s going on, I use natural light and I don’t interfere. Occasionally for portraits I’ll direct a moment, but more or less I just want to document what’s going on. My process is more simple than people think, I shoot film and I use an 8 year old DSLR. It’s not what you use, it's how you use it. It’s also about being able to tell a story through the images despite the subject matter.

I just use a 5D Mark II which came out years ago, when I was in photo school. Everyone was in awe it could record video. Big 2008 moment. I’m not sure why I chose Canon instead of Nikon, but it’s probably because my first camera was a basic Canon Rebel to survive my first year of photo school. I don’t keep up with what’s coming out next, digital cameras used to come out like twice a year, now it’s every few months a consumer friendly DSLR comes out, so I just use what I got and edit how I do. My work looks different from other people’s for a reason.

Right now I’m shooting for Budokon University, a mixed martial arts school based in Miami Beach, Florida. I enter dojo spaces with people that have been doing these art forms a majority of their lives so you need to you walk into their space with respect. I can’t be intrusive and disturb the students or instruction, so I’ll just sit in a spot, observe, move when I have to, mostly everyone says they never notice me there and trust me, I grab a lot of content. I just work fast.

Top, American Apparel ; Jacket, Kenzo

“When I began the point & shoot phase in college, I bought this shit 35mm Ricoh off eBay and wasn’t really impressed with the photos, but thought that was that. Then 2011, I met a photographer in London, Tom Oxley, and he had this Contax T2 sitting on his desk. He let me shoot a few rolls during my stay, and when I returned to the states I fell in love with how crisp the images were. Contax got that Zeiss glass.”
— on her love for Contax cameras
Ysa's favorite beauty products

Ysa's favorite beauty products


on her beauty routine

Ever since Budokon, my regimen has gravitated towards being more authentic. I’m extremely active there’s no need for makeup, plus it’s Miami, it’s going to sweat off anyway. I always tone and moisturize, but I keep a natural thing going - I ride my bike outside, tan, go into the sea for salt water (which cures everything), I workout. I steam & sauna for my muscles. I just take care of myself - being healthy is how I view beauty. For products, I would recommend: Kiehl’s Skin Rescuer Daily Hydrator, Botanics Faical Oil, and Nivea Lip Butter.

on how she handles her hair

Ironically now that I’ve finally grown out my hair, I’m in humidity Miami, and the combination of my Puerto Rican roots, active lifestyle, presents a lot to deal with. My routine is kind of a process - when I shower I can’t let it air dry otherwise it instantly frazzles and bigs up, I I have to instantly comb it through, put coconut oil, braid it, let it dry, then unravel it few hours later. Blow drying it here, also impossible. Shoving hot air in my face here is punishment on punishment. I actually need like 8 days for my hair to naturally retain full moisture but it’s impossible to avoid washing it when I attend jiu jitsu 4 times a week and get my hair in a daily sweaty tangle. We’re always identifying who’s hair is on the mat.

“I love to thrift, I’m a nostalgic kind of person. I like old things and I have relationships with brands that fortunately send me clothes anyway. Being a gypsy, it’s easy to acquire clothing when you’re traveling so I have to be very conscious. Been going to the same places in Bushwick since I lived there 2008, all the Mexican/Spanish thrift stores always win. We know what’s up. In LA I found that the thrifting is completely different but the places to go are The Goodwills. Hollywood one is dope, also the one on Beverly, and rare one is Downtown, not many people go there and it’s super organized. As I get older though, my style becomes more simple. It’s funny to think as a photo assistant at GQ I would wear skirts and heels, I would even keratin my hair to make it full time straight, but when I started freelancing, that urge to present myself formally disappeared, as I’m behind the camera. Now in Miami, I have a very athletic lifestyle — always been a tomboy, so right now it’s minimal clothing daily: shorts, sports bras, bathing suits and jiu jitsu rash guards, for real.”
— on her style

Jacket, Kenzo ; Pants, Ralph Lauren

ysa’s favorite spots in nyc

In NYC, Ippudo in East Village, 65 4th Ave, the best ramen ever, there’s just no question. Also do not leave without eating the pork buns and if shishito peppers.

Commodore in Williamsburg, it’s the place you’ll start running into people the longer you live there, because it’s somewhere easy to chill (when it’s not insane) and yeah obviously the best fried chicken hands down. Bonus are the biscuits that come with lavenderrrrrrr honey.

After Commodore, you get two in one - head next door to Momofuku Milk Bar and get a CEREAL MILKSHAKE. If you like downing the end of the cereal bowl and know that specific taste I’m referring to… RUN there. And ask for extra cereal topping. Bonus you can buy the mixture and take it with you my international people.

ysa’s favorite spots in LA

In LA, the one stop place is SWINGERS. I’m all for reasonably priced organic delicious food where I can get a stack of pancakes ahi tuna sandwich, or a steak ANYTIME 7am-2am. 

LA is all about acai bowls, my bank account was dying the few months I was there just from those. The best > Liquid Juice Bar, get ‘The Chronic’ trust me.

ysa’s favorite movies

The Fifth Element by Luc Besson

Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino

Natural Born Killers by Oliver Stone

Risky Business by Paul Brickman

Outfit, Vintage ; Jacket, BornxRaised

Outfit, Vintage ; Jacket, BornxRaised