Getting the Shot With Isaac James
Meet Isaac James
Equally talented as he is hilarious and kind, Isaac James continues to slay the visual game. As Senior Photographer for Peloton Cycle, his eye for the perfect movement, exceptional angles and dynamic light detail allows him to create imagery that consistently sets an impactful scene. We got to talk (and laugh, a lot) in Brooklyn recently where he opened up about hard work, life goals and ultimately going after what you want.
Occupations, affiliations, and projects.
Currently working as the Senior Photographer for Peloton Cycle, where I work with a team of creatives to produce and shoot all of their in house visual content. Additionally, I work as a freelance photographer focusing on lifestyle and large scale theatrical productions.
“People Who Do” focuses on those who excel at moving forward throughout their passions in life, why is it important to you to “do”?
My grandmother immigrated here illegally from Mexico because she insisted upon a better life for her 6 children. She was a single mother who worked as a waitress for years. When I think about why I “do” I think about my grandmother, and my great great grandparents who moved to this country from Scotland. They all sacrificed so much for me to be standing where I am today. I owe it to them to be honest with who I am and fight for all things beautiful; to push myself beyond comfortable and constantly grow as an artist and creative. I am here for a reason and my family has helped me to see that.
To date, what accomplishments (of any kind) are you most proud of?
My current position with Peloton as their Senior Photographer. You see, my journey with this company started back in 2014 when I started working at the front desk of the studio back when it first opened. I saw that the company was growing rapidly and there was going to be many needs for custom imagery. I don't know where these balls came from, but I eventually made a 20 page spiral bound proposal outlining the current state of the company and how the company could benefit by having someone in house shoot all of their content. Two weeks later I was offered a full time trial position working out of their headquarters and 3 months later I was offered an official salaried position.
The two plus years I've spent with this company is one of my proudest achievements. Not only has my work improved drastically over the past year, I've learned a lot about the importance of having confidence as a creative. I've had my work on a billboard in Times Square, printed in nationally published magazines, I've learned how to work efficiently with others, get organized, and on top of all of that I've made friends who I will keep around me for the rest of my life.
At what moment did you discover that this was what you wanted to do?
When I was 13 years old my brother Ben (who is also a photographer) bought me a 35mm point and shoot camera. I couldn't stop. Wouldn’t stop. Its cute for me to think back on this. I mean, we’re talking past the point of obsession. I used to set up my old science fair boards, lay my white sheets over them and make our 1 year old white Terrier, Ladybug, sit and pose in front of it. You would think with such excellent training from me she’d grow up to be a fierce poser; not the case. She was always afraid of the camera. I’ll never forget how annoyed my dad was after paying to develop 12 rolls of film and discovering what was on them: “I swear Isaac, I’m not going to keep paying for this if the only thing you take pictures of IS THE DOG!” Over the years I grew out of shooting Ladybug and finally moved onto…humans!
I went to school to study Musical Theatre. One of my instructors gave me some excellent advice. He said, “If you want a career in theatre, find something to do that is not on the stage.” He was right. Once I graduated I used the skills I had developed to charge for headshots, lifestyle shoots for actors, and finally large scale theatrical productions. WHAT?! That was a dream for me! I remember the first show I shot, chasing the actors around trying to capture the most dramatic images that helped tell the story of the piece. There are so many elements to shooting a large scale production, you have to be able to find the right moment to encompass the entire scene. Its hard, but when done appropriately, magic happens.
Tell me more about why your photography is important to you?
It's challenging to describe why it's so important to me. I wasn't the guy who picked up the camera as a fall back. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It's been a large part of my life since adolescence; the camera, at times, feels like an extension of my arm. That sounds ridiculously cheesy, but it’s true. It was the first time I felt inspiration and a form of creative expression that I needed as a 13 year old growing up in Corpus Christi Texas.
#1 motivating mantra to get through tough moments.
This is easy, "SIN MIEDO". Its a Spanish phrase meaning, "without fear". I’ve found myself on multiple occasions talking myself out of taking risks and when I think about my why, it's always rooted in fear; Fear of failure, fear of looking or sounding stupid, etc. It's really annoying, and I'm tired of letting it affect my life! I decided that I was going to live that life. I would fight with every ounce in my body to be the man who looks fear dead in the eyes and slays that beast.
What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned so far this year?
To cut myself some slack, space is mandatory, vacations aren't bad, inspiration is a necessity. Resetting myself as much as possible is beyond important.
What’s the best piece of advice that you can give from what you've learned so far?
Don't compare. It's not effective, nor productive. We’re all on our own journey and looking at what other people are doing or why they are where they are is so not beneficial to accomplishing your goals. Funny enough, this was a lesson that was confirmed for me in a spin class at Peloton. See, at Peloton there is an optional leaderboard in class where you can see who is riding around you and what their output is. I started noticing a pattern. During classes where I was distracted with the people directly in front of me or behind me I’d always finish below my average. It was the classes where I focused on myself and pushing myself as hard as I could that I was the most successful. Life lessons, y’all.
What's your go-to song to put you in a better mood?
Favorite method for logging any kind of inspiration.
I screenshot everything. Everything. Almost to the point that it's not effective. Haha.
Top 5 people you would invite to a dinner party.
I would just like to say at this dinner party we’re all wearing very elaborate crowns but casually dressed in jeans and t-shirts.
Chelsea Handler: the queen of dinner convo. I fear she could be a bit controlling of the dinner conversation but I still think we’d be best friends.
BEYONCÉ: Because it's Beyoncé.
Barbra Streisand: Honestly, I think I would just sit and sob if I was eating a meal with this woman. Have you ever heard the ivory microphone story when she went on Oprah? Story goes, she wanted everything on stage to be Ivory, including the microphone. The producers told her they only had black ones, so she had one of her assistants steal the mic and spray paint it outside. DIVA.
Michelle Obama: I feel like she’d offer an interesting perspective.
Edgar Allen Poe: Just to watch him interact with these women.
What’s the next goal?
I have two. 1) Write a cabaret. 2) Publish a coffee table book with my photography.
By "do-ing", you create your own unique legacy. How do you want your legacy to look?
I want to be remembered as someone who never took "no" for an answer and who constantly pushed to create work that I am proud of. This obviously does not come naturally to me, but at least it gives me something to fight for!
3 words that you want to be remembered by.