We had the good fortune of connecting with Aja Villacres and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aja, how do you think about risk?
I’ve always strived to live my life by the quote “life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all” by Helen Keller. I believe this quote goes hand in hand with the fact that you won’t get anywhere significant in life without taking big risks. I also believe taking risks is almost ALWAYS worth it.
I grew up in a small town in Washington state and had created a relatively successful portrait photography business. I was comfortable, but I knew I wanted more … I had always wanted to live in San Francisco and I’d always dreamed of focusing my photography more on fine art versus traditional portraiture. So with only $500, a one-way plane ticket to San Francisco and a dream, I risked my comfortable life for something I’d only dreamed of.
It took a lot of trial and error and living on the edge (financially) before I was finally able to achieve my dream of living comfortably as a fine art photographer in San Francisco.
I truly believe that I wouldn’t be where I am had I not risked everything and risked my comfort to pursue my biggest dream of living in San Francisco as an artist.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m a fine art photographer based in San Francisco, California. My photography features bright and bold colors, clean lines, negative space, and sometimes odd subjects. I enjoy shooting still life and portraiture, and sometimes I mix those two.
It’s always been difficult for me to describe my aesthetic to others, but I find that my photography is heavily inspired by Neil Krug, Martin Parr, Keith Haring, and Frida Kahlo, to name a few.
My goal with my photography is to make people feel as if they’re getting a peek into an alternate universe where it’s always sunny, and the people and places are slightly funky.
I have always been into photography since I was a little kid. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t shooting. I built a portrait photography business when I was in middle/high school, and then moved to San Francisco to pursue fine art photography at 20 years old. I attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, but I didn’t attend university with the intention of getting a degree~ I attended the university to further my education on the more technical side of photography. I am so thankful for the education I received there and am even more grateful for the incredible people I met while attending classes there.
I am currently still working and residing in San Francisco, and honestly couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else. I’m absolutely in awe with this city and it inspires me each and every day. I worked hard to get here and am proud of how far I’ve come since moving here 7 years ago.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
San Francisco is the best city on the west coast (in my humble opinion). It has everything a person would ever want and more! If I had some friends visiting me in the city for a week, I’d make sure to take them bar hopping on Polk street, and ensure that they get a late night donut at Bob’s Donuts. I’d spend one of the days showing them all of the hidden gems in Chinatown, and make sure that we stop at the Cable Car Museum while we’re in that area. Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge never gets old, so I’d make sure we do that! Another must-do thing that I’d make sure to take my friends to do would be spend a couple hours at the Musée Mécanique on pier 45, and then we’d grab lunch at Boudin afterwards.
There’s just SO much to see and do in this city, which is why it never gets old living here.! I absolutely love it.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to my lovely parents and brother. I truly wouldn’t be anywhere in life if it weren’t for their incredible guidance, love, and support.