© Ismael Yunta
Madrid-born Ismael Yunta describes himself as “restless.” His never-dying search for new horizons embodies one of his traits, but it surely does not end there. A detail-oriented and obsessed with frame composition and lighting, Isma takes time to perform his art, revealing authentic passion. His restlessness keeps him moving from style to style once mastered.
Born in Madrid in 1991 in Torres de la Alameda, a municipality of the Community of Madrid, Spain, Isma recently entered the scene of surrealism that has a lengthy history in the country. One can memorize the art of Salvador Dalí, Óscar M. Domínguez, Eduardo Chillida, to name a few.
During the Covid-19 isolation, which sparked a massive wave of artistic movement around the world, creative minds, including Isma’s, retreated into their private space: no clients, no control, no pre-production, or deadlines; when one strips down to the pure creative energy, beautiful things can happen.
Isma, tell us a little bit about the Fvck Covid-19 project.
The whole idea developed from merely playing around freely with the setting during the isolation time, being free from agencies and clients with no other aim than the creation and the joy of it. You know where you start and what your means are, but you do not know where or how you’re going to end up. The whole project is an improvisation, lived through the independence of your creative mind, from start to finish.
Your photography is remarkably progressed now; do you remember your early work?
My first photographs were horrific. They were not making any sense; I just spent a couple of years taking empty, lousy shots to understand how the camera works. Then I started to take pictures at night, focusing on the lighting. That is when things got interesting!
So you are self-taught.
Yes, I am self-taught. I learned everything about the camera in my living room, literally. My dining table was my studio for two long years. Every single day, I learned through a trial-error method. Countless tests that made me understand how the light works.
What is your drive in photography; in other words, what keeps you going when things get rough?
I have a hunger for it. I am always looking forward to new projects and challenges, especially those that pose a real difficulty and unease of being somewhere I have never been before. Having polished my technique level, I am fierce when it comes to art direction, balancing my style with art.
When things get rough, either due to low budget, lack of time, or something not going the way I hoped, I always try to get the best of it and get as close to the ‘desired’ as possible.
I am a firm believer that our work has to stand on its own and do the talk for us, so I always give 200%, and I’m frequently very stubborn in accomplishing what I intended to do [he laughs].
What have you observed in photography since you started?
The most significant change would be the rise of social media at an unprecedented rate. It completely changed the game, and, of course, the evolution of digital camera systems.
Who were the very first photographers that resonated with you?
I do not remember who were the first photographers that inspired me to get involved in professional photography. Still, there is a pair of photographers who marked the before and after.
Garrigosa Studio, a studio that amazingly integrates photography and CGI, inspired me because they give great value to textures and details. I remember that I loved analyzing some of his images and trying to recreate them without CGI 😬.
Then Scott Newett also had a lot of weight. It opened my mind, and I understood that advertising photography also has to have a human and natural vibe. Still, not necessarily for that, we have to leave surrealism to the side. The inspiration comes from everywhere, but most recently, I don’t have anyone new coming to mind.
You worked in the pharmaceutical industry before you became a freelance photographer. That is a significant shift. What would your advice be to those who desire to change their profession?
Make sure that what you desire is what you genuinely want to do. It is also essential to work hard; to be patient, to know how to handle mistakes and learn from them. You should work for yourself, do not expect the commissions to arrive, do what you love.
I can see that you prefer “handmade setting” to 3D, which I, personally, adore. What do you think the future of photography will look like; do you believe that the time-consuming, handmade projects will disappear and 3-D will replace them?
It is true that a more cost-effective 3D approach is frequently replacing ‘traditional handmade setting’ in photography. That way, brands can have multiple settings with different lights and framing. However, I don’t think the handmade projects will disappear. I believe that the vast majority of artists who carry out their projects by hand have another value, or so I hope [he laughs].
There are so many artists who mix various approaches: art, 3D, everything. So, I do not think that the handmade setting will disappear; I think they will coexist with the more modern techniques.
Getting back to the years when photography was only a hobby, did the feeling of doing it changed once it became your job?
[The question makes Isma laugh.]
I still love it, feeling the same way about it as the very first day.
Some customers do cut your wings in terms of ideas—another time, the limited budget does not allow you to develop your idea fully. There are limitations.
On the other hand, these issues usually come with enormous clients who do not give me much creative space, but some smaller clients who saw my work and liked it put trust in me. They might have a smaller budget but provide you with an opportunity to approach the challenge through your own visual.
One way or another, the point is to enjoy yourself while doing your job, then the result is great, and it can capture the attention of new potential customers.
Do you prefer photography to post-production?
[He takes a moment before he answers.]
If I had to choose, I would go for photography because of the creative process, work with a team, and the moment of materialization of your ideas.
However, I enjoy post-production too. As long as I can remember, I only outsourced retouching once or twice due to the lack of time, but I always prefer to do it myself even if I lose sleep over it [he chuckles].
Is there anything you would change in the business?
Well, I would love to have a steady workflow. I’m not too fond of the disbalance; one week, I have very little work; the next, I am so hard-pressed that I can’t get home to see my son. Finding a midpoint would be great. Perhaps, next year.
Isma, thank you for your time. To wrap up, I wonder what your expectations are regarding your creative development over the upcoming years?
I look forward-moving to the next level of concept photography and, above all, to move into the video-direction. I am quite confident that in the upcoming years, I will tap into the video industry.
[It will undoubtedly be exciting to watch this unfold.]