Updated: Jun 17, 2020
For photographer and architect Dane Isaac, the most important factor in “good design” is whether his work is “doing good.” For Isaac, doing good is not only about featuring content that raises environmental, social, and political consciousness, but in artistically and authentically capturing the human experiences—joy, relief, awe, fear, attraction, confidence, insecurity— that connect people across all viewpoints and walks of life.
Seeing his stunning work, once cannot help but be surprised that Isaac didn’t even own a camera until 2014.
However, he has been taking mental snapshots his entire life. Growing up on the small island of Grenada, books and magazines were in short supply, but he devoured every National Geographic magazine that his mother brought home.
“I don’t remember a specific photo, but what influenced me was how the photos made me feel inspired by and connected with the world,”
Seeking a career in photography didn’t seem realistic to him at the time, but Isaac still wanted to do something creative, for a good cause, and that was financially stable.
With few distractions in Grenada, Isaac entertained himself by becoming highly observant, and he began to observe that architecture had the power to influence everything from people’s propensity to collaborate in an office to how much energy a building expends—or could conserve.
“Architecture seemed like a good middle ground—something creative that I could still make a living off of,”
At nineteen, Isaac immigrated to the United States to attend architecture school in New York City. During college, he took photos on his phone as a hobbyist until he could save up enough for a camera.
Like many photographers, Isaac is impressively self-taught. Influenced by his background in architecture, he was fascinated by how people interact with their surroundings, often spending entire days in the same place.
Smiling, Isaac recalled how he conducted light studies under the Brooklyn Bridge when he was first learning photography.
“I loved to just hang out under the bridge all day and watch how the lighting changed how people interacted with the space. It would be peaceful and quiet at sunrise, then there would be joggers in the morning, tourists in the afternoon, couples in the evening...I’d photograph it all,” said Isaac.
Isaac’s initial fascination with light studies came full circle at a recent location shoot sponsored by Sony. Isaac shot his models through rather than in front of the set’s canvas background, hatching the idea after spending the entire day before his shoot on set to observe the light.
It’s been only six years since Dane Isaac bought his first camera, and he is now a renowned portrait photographer, member of the exclusive Sony Alpha collective, and an Instagram influencer with over 55,000 followers.
He attributes his success to many things—perseverance, practice, humility, and admittedly some raw talent—but ultimately, his success can be summarized by a fresh take on the common adage, “shoot what you know.”
At face value, the phrase appears to suggest that artists should photograph the people and places they know, but for Dane, he can shoot anyone and anywhere so long as the photograph captures a common human experience, something that we all know.
Despite his growing celebrity, Isaac has remained admirably focused on his original inspiration to “do good.” In addition to shooting models, basketball players, and other celebrities, he leverages his success to photograph and uplift causes he believes in, such as diversifying the fashion industry through more Black models, raising awareness about environmental issues, and most recently, documenting the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests.
Isaac currently works in Brooklyn as a photographer and part-time architectural consultant. While his goals of being a full-time photographer could now be easily attained, he continues to work in architecture to create not only content, but structures, that inspire people to interact with each other and their environment in the best way.
“You can influence someone’s mood, even their life, with good design, and you can do the same thing with photography,”
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