By: Amelia Abelo | @ameliaabelo
Photographer: Ken Rivas | @kenrivasphoto
In this series of Q&A interviews, we will consult a group of professional photographers, who are at different stages in their career, to get a unique perspective on the fashion industry from the inside. Our first interview discussed diversity in the fashion industry and the impact of social media. This next interview with photographer Ken Rivas, will touch on the transition from modeling into photography and the development of the fashion business around the world.
Transitioning from Modeling into Photography
“We all need to fulfill ourselves by finding that one purpose that makes us feel connected to one another.”
Ken Rivas is a self-taught Fashion Photographer and Director with roots in both Venezuela and Japan. He is currently based in Bangkok but is regularly traveling the world for both work and pleasure. With a background in modeling, he has spent significant time both in front of and behind the lens.
Ken has had his work published to various fashion platforms, including Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel, L’Optimum, CK Jeans, Frederick Lee, John Henry, Okura Prestige Hotel and Thai Airways. In 2015, he won the award “Best Fashion” at Miami Fashion Film Festival for his video project Frederick Lee Haute Couture – SS15. With a positive and partly spiritual outlook on life, he is sharing some of the experiences he has had throughout his 20 years in the industry.
Who is Ken?
I am “the one” who makes dreams come true.
Jokes aside, I was born in Venezuela in 1982 and grew up there. I feel so proud of my country due to its heart and humanitarian brotherhood. Venezuela is so multicultural, with a feeling of acceptance and an ability to embrace every nationality. Many of my friends were multicultural, and this allowed me to learn a lot about other countries without having to travel. With my mother being Japanese, I sometimes felt like a foreigner in my own country. Over the years I have realized that is a feeling shared with many people who have multinational roots.
How did you first become interested in the industry?
From an early age, I always liked to look through the view finder of my father’s Yashica 635 camera. As I am looking back, I realize this inspired me as a child and gave me dreams of things I didn’t even know I wanted.
It was at the age of 19 that I decided to go abroad to pursue my modeling career. I was hungry for adventure and wanted to see where it would bring me. I ended up spending the following 10 years traveling all over the world, living everywhere from the fashion capitals like New York and Milan to the growing fashion hubs such as Athens, Warsaw, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.
What made you transition from modeling into photography?
My need of creating and desire to realize my artistic visions. I think everyone has the power to make their dreams come true. The key is to believe in yourself and focus on the impact you want to have on the world.
Being a model taught me a lot about photography. I studied magazine editorials, as well as every move of the photographers I was working with. Eventually, I developed into a self-taught Director and Fashion Photographer, and being behind the camera took me around the world once again. So far, I have had assignments in Miami, Los Angeles, Paris, Manila, Mumbai, New Delhi, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Which of the two professions makes you feel more fulfilled?
To me, both are amazing, and that is the key to success in any profession. Whoever said “Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day of your life,” really does have a point.
I would have never fallen so much in love with travel if it was not for my time spent modeling. We all need to fulfill ourselves by finding that one purpose that makes us feel connected to others. I believe artistic creation brings us a little bit closer to higher powers such as the creators and Gods.
What are some of the best and worst experiences you had during these years?
I do not have any experiences that I consider as “bad.” The set backs I have had are learning experiences, which is a natural part of anyone’s journey. It motivates me to try again and again until I have mastered it.
How would you describe your work to someone who has never seen it?
Fun and healthy love, with little pesto on the side and a bagel to go so you don’t get hungry going back.
What is your advice to those who want to get into modeling or photography?
Do what you love and don’t care about the rest.
What are the some of the changes you have noticed in the business?
These days, there are more Asian models portrayed in the advertisement for western brands. In my time, the mixed-race face was still way too exotic for the standard consumers in western markets.
One of the popular strategies now is to use full-blood models, but with mixed-race facial features. One day I think it will be a more open platform for everyone, regardless of race and look.
Are there any changes you would like to see?
I am not really interested in any kind of change nowadays. I appreciate life and accept everything God presents. My main focuses now are the people I get to work with and most importantly; maintaining my peace of mind.