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Meet Hollywood Photographer: Maya Ismailova

Today we’d like to introduce you to Maya Ismailova.

Maya, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I immigrated from Russia. Lived in Boston for nearly 14 years. Got my ALB in Studio Arts and Business Studies from Harvard University. Did some freelance photography in Boston and Florida. I endured many hardships moving to this new world, learning the language, going to school, adopting the culture, before I got where I am now. And now I am in Los Angeles after moving from San Francisco where I lived for almost two years. I’ve been in LA only for a few months. I love it here and I think there is an opportunity for me here as an artist and as a photographer.

My grandfather was a photographer. All the photos I have from my childhood is because of him… He was a great photographer and was well known in the area where I grew up. But I haven’t learned this skill from my grandfather. Unfortunately, he passed away long ago photography became my passion. I like to say I’m an artist and not just a photographer because I like to express myself in many forms and photography is just one of them.

I write poetry and like drawing and painting. I also write and illustrate picture books for children. One of the books is debuting this fall.

When I take a picture of a person I look deeper into this person’s soul. Through the eyes of the subject, you can see a lot. I catch that essence of the human’s instance in space and time and that becomes instantly frozen for however long the photo exists.

I started taking pictures out of curiosity, trying to capture the world and people as I see them. So, I was doing it mostly for fun. Then I did a few projects and people liked them and started telling me that I was a great photographer. Very flattering. But at the same time, my photography evolved through years. I became better at it technically. There are many things involved when you shoot and sometimes many things have to be taken into consideration to get a great picture. Sometimes you are pure lucky and the photo is just awesome. It happens. Sometimes the result is not always as you think it would be. And sometimes it’s even for the better because you create something you have not expected to create. It surprises you! You surprise yourself or I surprise myself, I should say.

Has it been a smooth road?
It wasn’t always smooth. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I had many hardships in my life, some are family related and some are just pure personal. It can throw you off for some time. At some point, I had to stop doing what I loved and did something else to survive. I knew I had to be true to myself and to my passion. And I would say, I’m going to try it again and again until I succeed. I cannot say that I’m where I want to be yet artistically and financially, but I’m on my journey and sometimes it’s even more important. Life is a journey after all.

When people look at the pictures I took of them and say , wow! Hey, it’s worth it 🙂 When I work with a potential client I capture the essence of this individual and they look beautiful because they are. I have that ability to sense when to press the shutter button. And I also take time. Don’t like to rush.

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
My plan is to settle in LA area and grow my photography business. I’m also working on writing and illustrating a few children’s books one which is coming out this fall in an e-book format. The title is “With A Little Bit Of Whipped Cream” Monkey Rita and Friends by Roxy Pebbles — my pen name.

Let’s dig a little deeper into your story. What was the hardest time you’ve had?
When I moved from Boston to San Francisco two years ago, I couldn’t find any photography gigs for months. It was a tough time because here I was in a new city, no friends, no acquaintances, no connections, starting from scratch. I had to survive. San Francisco is a very expensive city. I was paying $1200 for a room in North Beach, but it was a tiny room. I had to forget about photography for a while and do some other random jobs to keep afloat. It was depressing at times. People ask you what do you do, and you say well, I’m a photographer, but I wasn’t even doing that. And people say, oh wow, lucky you, you can make money off that to live in this city. And I’m like, lying to myself and basically to them. So, it was tough to be in a situation like that. Eventually, I started to get a few gigs, but it wasn’t enough to survive. At some point, I made the decision to move to LA, where I can live a little cheaper and with nicer weather anyway.


  • $195 Any Headshot Package
  • $345 Two-look Headshot or a Portraiture Package
  • $600 Portfolio Package

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