Be true to yourself and your roots, you come from a different culture, you can be yourself and still mingle and cohabitate perfectly with people from other countries
Don’t be afraid to talk if you English is not perfect, they get it, you are not from here, you are trying your best, you probably do speak 2 or 3 languages which is two or 3 times more than an average American does, so always try to improve it but don’t be afraid.
Is the American Dream still alive? If you speak to many of the immigrants we spoke to, who came to this country with nothing but grit, resilience, and a dream, they will tell you that it certainly is still alive.
As a part of our series about immigrant success stories, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jaime Pavon-Aviles, a fashion and advertising photographer from Ecuador based in New York.
In the course of his career, he has adopted a style that he describes as futuristic, edgy, avant-garde, and with a polished fun twist.
He honed his skills by studying a Master’s degree in Photography at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, New York. This has given him an opportunity to explore photography as an art as a form on self exploration and opened the spectrum to all artistic interests.
In his work as a fashion photographer, he has worked with different brands and clients including but not limited to; Visa, Diners Club, Discover, Nivea, Amazon, Ford, Halls, Cath Kidston, GoGo Squeez, Keratin Complex, Latam Airlines, Liga de Quito soccer team, Rafael Correa Ecuadorian Presidential campaign. He have had an opportunity of working with top model’s from agencies such as IMG, State Management, Elite, Supreme, and his photos have been featured in several magazines such as Vogue Portugal, Elle Arabia, Wonderland China, L’officiel, Nylon Español, Resident Magazine, Hombre magazine, Civilian Mag, Siente, Abordo, Polisart and many more.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I’m from Quito — Ecuador, I’m the second child of a lovely working class family. I had a great life, my mother who still lives there was a teacher, always very caring about her family and friends, and my father who recently passed away due to Covid-19 was also great with us, family was always first and he always encouraged us to be better.
They made sure we had the best education they could afford at the time, they made sure we had everything that we needed but never any unnecessary whim. My parents taught my sister Lyda and I, to think ahead of the times, they taught us to be entrepreneurs, to be smart on how we manage our finances, to be honest and to be the very best in any career we decide to pursue.
Was there a particular trigger point that made you emigrate to the US? Can you tell us the story?
Since I’m 18, I decided to become a photographer. I started as an event photographer for a website, then transitioned to photojournalism and worked for one of the biggest newspapers in Ecuador for a couple years, and after that I moved on to what I loved the most, fashion photography. So I started my own photo studio where I began doing look-books for designers, brands, and small commercial jobs. I started to succeed more and more and started getting bigger and bigger clients. At some point I felt I couldn`t keep walking forward in my career. There weren’t the tools ¡ I needed to become the best fashion photographer (as my parents always taught me to be) and I also, never had a formal education in Photography since my major was in Social Communications and journalism. So if I wanted to become the best, I had to go the the land where all the best fashion photographers are, and that is definitely New York to me.
Can you tell us the story of how you came to the USA? What was that experience like?
I decided to study the Masters in Fashion Photography at the School Of Visual Arts in New York, it’s a one year full time program and that was my dream school to be at. So my first step was to enroll in it; By the time I got accepted I had my first daughter, Julieta and at some point I thought bringing my wife and my baby wasn’t the best idea and maybe it was a better idea to stay there and remain comfortable working with the clients that we had. But, obviously (and thank God), I didn’t listen to myself and took the leap of faith to come here to pursue my dreams and I brought my family over with me so we can remain together, which to me has been very important since day one.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped make the move more manageable? Can you share a story?
The support from our family in Ecuador and USA was fundamental, they always made our life easier when they could and never tried to stop us. Furthermore, they encourage us to do what we’ve dreamt of. Here is a little story: I decided to come a month before than my wife and daughter so I can arrange everything up for them. A few weeks before that day, I was looking for some relatives or friends in NY that could lend us a hand — if needed- . We had some replies but nothing very real, to be honest I was hopping I can stay at someone`s place so we can save some money until we rented an apartment. At some point and with no so many options I rented and Airbnb in Brooklyn. A few day prior to my fly, my wife’s cousin give me a phone number of someone called Gabriela Venegas which her friends of her and that might help us, but I didn’t pay much attention since we have tried reaching people before with no positive feedback, anyways, I decided to call to say hi and introduce myself, but I was very surprised when I realized that this friends were my best friends when I was around 16 and I lost track of them a couple of years after. that’s life! and they helped us a lot, made me cancel my Airbnb, hosted me for a month before my family arrived and then, hosted my my wife Karla, Julieta and I for a couple more weeks until we moved to our apartment. They are now our new “Ecua-gringo” family. I also have to give a shout-out to Gabriela my cousin who took a week off and rode a bus from to help me find a good apartment. Thankfully, she was there for me, because I knew nothing about real state in New York and geez you can find some creepy places for rent in New York.
So how are things going today?
It’s been 4 years since I moved here, we had a second daughter, Amelia, and I can say things have moved fast for me. After school, the first year was really hard. Trying to understand how the industry works, to reach potential clients, to meet people, to build up a team , etc. it was a lot!
But, after I got hired the first time, the snow ball effect started too. People recommendations got me more and better clients. Also, sending 3000 emails a day, finally paid off. Now I have some great clients that I work on a regular basis and I shoot for magazines all around the world such as Vogue Portugal, Elle Arabia,. Wonderland China, etc. I also work with fashion designers, for their campaigns, look-books, and I’m always very busy during fashion week.
My style is getting refined and my business is growing at a good pace and will definitely grow more the next few years. I hope in 5 years to be shooting for top brands in the world
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Since I left Ecuador, I promised myself to give back as much as possible. So since then I’m always trying to do photography and creativity workshops there. I’m helping new photographers to find their voices, to dream big and to find a way to achieve their goals. I started a photography podcast in Spanish called Raw Artist where I interview Latin creative people and together we try to show the Hispanic community that we can dream big and be very successful with our craft.
You have first hand experience with the US immigration system. If you had the power, which three things would you suggest to improve the system?
I’m here under an O1 visa -also known as the “artist Visa”- so the first thing that I would suggest is to simplify the process and to make it less expensive for artist that are here already. Nowadays I have to renew my visa every 3 years and it usually takes 1 year to get the response. So, besides the taxes and all the contributions we make as any other resident here does, every 3 years we have to pay around 8000 dollars including attorney’s fee to get it renewed and the paperwork we have to submit is humongous.
Then, my wife is under an O3 visa — this visa is attached to mine- and she is not allowed to work at all or to study full time, so, to find a way to let O3 visa holders to work at least part time or study would definitely be my second suggestion. And finally, to open paths to obtain the citizenship would be the third suggestion, nowadays it seems really hard to get it for us.
Can you share “5 keys to achieving the American dream” that others can learn from you? Please share a story or example for each.
- Dream big and do what ever it takes to make your dream come true.
- Find people, friends, family to ask things to, that you don’t know. You’ll be highly amazed to see how many people can help you and guide you if you only ask.
- Help others in similar situation, if you suffer when you got there, they are probably suffering too.
- Put some money away for emergencies and save for your retirement, its very important to be smart with your finances.
- Be true to yourself and your roots, you come from a different culture, you can be yourself and still mingle and cohabitate perfectly with people from other countries.
- Don’t be afraid to talk if you English is not perfect, they get it, you are not from here, you are trying your best, you probably do speak 2 or 3 languages which is two or 3 times more than an average American does, so always try to improve it but don’t be afraid.
We know that the US needs improvement. But are there 3 things that make you optimistic about the US’s future?
To me there still are a lot of opportunities in this country, there are many things happening every day and I feel confident that there are always new and better things to come to all of us and to all the entrepreneurs looking for opportunities. Also, this is a country that is always looking to compete and that make us part of this train that need to keep moving. I’m the kind of person that has dreams and don’t want to stop doing what I love, so I want to be part of this moving forward train, I want to compete with the very best of my industry because I want to be one of them soon.
Finally, being from a third world country with limited resources makes me thankful to everything that I have, that my family have and also makes me want to give back more, and that is probably one of the best motivations, to give back some of the knowledge that we have the opportunity to have here that our countries don’t easily have.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Instagram is the best place for people to see my photography work, my handle is @pavonphoto and also they can see previous work and reach me out on my website www.jaimepavon.com
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!