Isaac Alvarez is a commercial photographer, film director, and fine artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. He is currently working on his latest project entitled “Hear ME,” a spoken-word poetry and photography series inspired by the worldwide COVID pandemic, which triggered a global lockdown.
Isaac studied at the Art Institute of Los Angeles and worked in movie studios before branching out into photographing models and artists, typically for talent agencies and public relations firms. His own personal concept projects have him around California from beaches to residential neighborhoods where he typically finds interesting people to photograph. One of his first non-commercial photography series was entitled “Reflection of Me,” It was inspired by strangers’ reactions to his Pitbull dogs, either loving them or fearing them based on their breed. He subsequently published a book of these photos, which helped to kickstart his career.
Isaac loves to employ different film techniques such as filters and digital enhancement to capture the emotions that he felt when he took the image. His photos have appeared on posters, billboards, commercials, magazines, catalogs, and advertising materials.
Isaac Alvarez recently discussed his career and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your love for photography, and why do portraits of people so appeal to you?
Isaac Alvarez (IA): I honestly discovered photography at an early age. I was the go-to photographer for family parties. I didn’t realize I love photos until I took a class on photography when I was 21. Then I fell in love. At that time, I photographed pretty much everything, from wedding to product shots, I did it all. But portraits brought emotions to my craft, and that sucked me in. I love emotions and extracting them from my subject. Just the idea of capturing the moment driven by emotions in a single portrait brings some euphoria. I mean, don’t get me wrong, every kind of photography makes me feel alive, but portraits bring a special feeling when I’m capturing emotions. Probably the same way Rembrandt painted portraits.
MM: How many series have you created to date, and what inspired them?
IA: So far, I created ten series but only released five to the public. There is so much inspiration to all my series. But, ultimately, all my series are driven with the emotions I’m feeling at that time. For instance, I own two pit bulls, and every time my family walked them around to a public place like the park or an outdoor shopping center, they always get criticized because of their breed. So, I created “Reflection of ME” that showcased dogs are a reflection of their owners. “Reflection of ME” was inspired because of the pain and anger I felt. I wanted to make a difference using my talents.
MM: What inspired you to mix poetry and photography for “Hear ME”?
IA: When I created “Hear ME,” I wanted to spread positivity as much as I can. It originated a week after we went to quarantine due to COVID. At that time, I felt cornered as an artist. All we heard in the news was COVID this and QUARANTINE that. There was nothing positive, which built a lot of fear and pain in my heart. So, I contacted a few of my friends and asked them to relay a message on a piece of paper, and I’ll capture it through FaceTime. The next thing I know, I had 50 then 100 people participating. People started messaging me, asking me if they can be part of the project. Within a month, I had over 200 people participating in this project. At that time, my friend David Bianchi reached out and was inspired to write a spoken word for the project. We got together and started brainstorming along with a fellow poet Joivan Wade. The next thing I know, I was directing/producing the piece along with David and Joivan and got published in the UK. The inspiration came from people and their messages. I was getting messaged from all over the world prior to filming the spoken word. From Canada, The UK, Italy, Mexico, Thailand, telling me how everyone’s message positively inspired them. The words that David and Joivan chose coincide with what we are all dealing with as a community.
MM: How different is commercial work from your concept projects?
IA: Commercial work is already pre-planned by art directors and company owners, where concept projects have more flexibility within my creative desires. I do love both, though. There are times when I get inspired by commercial work because other people mostly generate ideas. Sometimes it does give birth to my concept projects. But the biggest difference is flexibility and how free I’m able to change anything I want.
MM: How different is it to work with celebrities versus people on the street?
IA: Honestly, it is similar to me. When I photograph celebrities, I treat them the same way as I would shoot someone from the streets. The most significant factor is art; no matter who it is, the art will vary. Capturing that emotion, whether it’s a celebrity or not, is what I aim for. I honestly never felt “star struct” from shooting celebs. When I get in front of the camera, the main things I think about are lighting/set-up and aesthetic/emotions. There are difficult people, but that’s both celebrities and noncelebrities.
MM: What are some of the most memorable experiences you’ve had as a photographer? For instance, which characters have you met that you’ll never forget?
IA: I don’t mean to sound so cliche. I would say all of my subjects were memorable, from photographing Lauren Cohan at the SoHo House in West Hollywood that had amazing aesthetics to shooting Camilla Luddington in the Great Co downtown with a fantastic metal wall. The memories I took and captured in the photo are unforgettable.
MM: How did you break into the movie industry, and which films have you worked on?
IA: The reason why I love photography is I’m able to capture emotions through my subject. This is why transitioning into film comes naturally to me. I learned how to direct my subjects throughout my years so that they can embody a character when I photograph them. I feel like film is very similar; the only difference is it’s a moving frame. I love directing my subjects, and I’m good at it. I directed my very first short film for HBO back in January; now, everything is on hold since we are all recovering from COVID and other chaos. I am working on a full-length script for a movie I want to direct; that’s in the process as of right now.
MM: What are your favorite photographs so far, and why?
IA: “Hear ME” is one of my favorites not because of the images but the message behind the portraits. The individual stories that surfaced from this photo series are what’s captivating and intriguing. This is why it’s one of my favorites. But if you’re talking about the photos I captured, I would have to say I have none. All of them helped me enhance my craft in some way or another. But as far as “Hear ME” I’m thinking of writing a book for it. Maybe we can revisit that when it gets published!
MM: What are your ultimate career goals? Is there anything else that you would like to mention or discuss?
IA: My ultimate goal is to use my talents and make a positive impact in the world. I am also aiming to direct a movie that will compel and touch people’s lives.
To learn more about Isaac and his work, see the below links.
Hear ME: https://www.isaacalvarez.com/hear-me