Emerging Talent: Megan McIsaac’s Honest Film Photography

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At only 22 years old, LA resident Megan McIsaac has a truly impressive body of work under her belt. She has a way of capturing the world around her with pure honesty; of illicting incredibly intimate reactions from her subject matter. She has taken the Tumblr world by storm, garnering thousands of notes on each image she posts – something about the simplicity and rawness of her photography seems to reverberate with a broad audience. I asked Megan a few questions about her art – click through above to see her beautiful images.

CJ: How did you get into photography?

MM: My Grandfather, Frank, was a nature photographer & so naturally he funded me & my two brothers a subscription to National Geographic throughout my early childhood, & that definitely sparked an interest. When I was six years old he put his Nikon around my neck while we were vacationing in Canada. He would always be making photographs of our family and would have the whole McIsaac clan (which were around 30 of my closest relatives) sit for a portrait. His camera was my favourite thing to play with that year, & so for Christmas about a year later, he & my father gifted me a new Polaroid camera. My father worked as a Policeman & conveniently for me they used Polaroid film for crime scene photos & I was able to take as much of the film as I wanted. For almost every year after that until I was a teenager they gifted me an analog camera or something related to photography. I never took any classes on it, & was never really shown how to use any of my cameras, but I wasn’t even aware that I could take classes on such a thing (apparently my dad was out of the loop too.) After that I was just too stubborn and still am as I continue to learn everything backwards & sideways.

CJ: What drives you to create your unique shots?

MM: Life itself, but in such a way that I can’t describe through words.

CJ: You shoot primarily film. What was the appeal from switching from Digital to Analog?

MM: I shot only film for seven years, then cashed in my savings bonds for a new digital camera. I shot with that, a Nikon D70s, for a few years before losing interest and switching back to film after discovering the magic of a Nikon FE (then a Mamiya C330.) I still only shoot with a Polaroid camera (from the Impossible Project,) whatever SLR isn’t broken (which is currently my boyfriends Canon FT QL,) and my Mamiya.

CJ: Your photographs are very good at making people wonder about the story behind them. What is your favorite photo, and the story behind it?

MM: They make me wonder sometimes too!I wish I could answer that, but I don’t have a favourite. I like them all in some way or another…

CJ: You do a lot of self portraits. What’s the appeal in making photos of yourself?

MM: Well, like many others, I struggle with low self-esteem. I started making self portraits with my Polaroid camera when I was ten or so years old, and have continued to since. It started off as a curiosity for what I looked like in some way other than my reflection in a mirror. That led to my curiosity of the double reflection, hence my series of mirror shots/self reflections. It’s just fun, and sometimes it really helps when I dont have anyone else to photograph and I’m angry or in love or sick. It teaches me a lot about myself.

CJ: What projects are you working on right now?

MM: Quite a few. I just finished shooting two lookbooks with my friend Renee Lilley as our muse, I’m really anxious to get all of my scans back from those rolls… I’m always working on projects, and I try to keep my blog & my portfolio fresh with new photographs to share as often as possible.

CJ: Explain your creative process.

MM: It’s different every time, dependent on so many variables…

CJ: You recently embarked on a journey in your “Dolphin”, an RV, and photographed the whole thing. Tell me a little about what inspired this journey, memorable moments, things you hope to accomplish with it in the future, etc.

Some evening in Autumn of 2010 I just sort of decided that I was going to buy a van and live on the road for a while with the hopes of publishing a book filled with whatever photographs I would make. I started saving all of my money from my day job while sort-of planning how I was going to make this happen. All of my plans were interrupted when I couldnt find the van that I wanted and then I met my lovely lover, Jean-Paul, and was thrown off balance again. I stayed in portland for almost a whole year, working on various photo projects, like photographing my good friend Shane, and slowly convincing Jean-Paul to go on the road with me. We found the Dolphin & got over some obstacles (like a cracked radiator & blown head-gasket) & then officially hit the road in December of 2011. I don’t know, there are so many memorable moments from the whole experience. We spent about three months on the road traveling around (after two months in it in Portland,) & then spent five months living around the Los Angeles area.

I think both of us dream of continuing our travels around the USA, perhaps in a converted school bus or just a larger RV… As I mentioned before, I had wanted to put out a photo-book with all of my photographs from living & traveling in the Dolphin, but I think I’m going to sit on that for a while as I have so many other projects I want to do that require my attention & all of my hard-earned income. Right now I really love living in LA, and I never thought I would have ever ended up here.

CJ: You have some truly provocative shots of celebrities and people of interest. How do you illicit this very intimate feeling in your portraits, especially with people who are used to posing?

MM: I’ve been fortunate in that many of the people I’ve photographed have been incredibly laid back and personable. I really enjoy listening to other peoples stories and watching them to open up to me. I love learning about the people I photograph and I think many of them have been very understanding of my intent, which is really just to capture what they’re feeling at the time. I never go out of my way to bring anything out of anybody. I don’t know if that makes any sense, I’m still trying to figure out what it is about the sensuality that I’m often photographing. I guess I’m just drawn to that in everybody. Everyone has intimacies.

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