Photography master Raymund Isaac talks about the eventful journey of his career

When asked what experiences shaped Raymund Isaac as a creator he said: “Rejection. In the first three years of my career, I was rejected [frequently] because I was too young, avant-garde, not experienced; name it, I’ve heard it.” In his early years, Isaac left Manila to study in New York since his opportunities on the home front looked bleak. Upon returning, he heard about a rumour going around “about an intriguing young photographer from NYC” going by the name, Raymund Isaac. “I took advantage of the ‘colonial mentality’ of the time, marketing myself to the perception they wanted. Needless to say, I got my foot in the door,” he shared frankly.

“I didn’t know what being creative was in the beginning,” says the acclaimed photographer. “All I knew was daydreaming and fantasising.” However, after 36 fruitful years in this career, Isaac amassed a wealth of experience. Naturally, we wanted to know about his most memorable moments.

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Isaac tells us about an occasion when he photographed Tom Cruise. “He was here to film a movie,” Isaac recounts, remembering being introduced to a simple man, unassuming, quiet, dressed in black jeans and a crew neck shirt. “I thought, THIS is the great Tom Cruise?” underscoring how unimpressed he was. “However, as soon as he stepped in front of my camera, he transformed. Suddenly, the Tom Cruise that I knew from the movies was there. I was speechless, crushing, and fan-boying all the way!” Isaac recalls gushingly.

Despite all the success, Isaac encourages young talents to always stay creative. “I [shoot in different styles] intentionally because I’m a chameleon. I adapt. I evolve.” In fact, to someone as seasoned as he, there is still so much to learn in the world. “Once a person declares that he is the best of the best, rest assured that person is at the end of his career. But someone, no matter how experienced, who still thinks there is so much [to learn], never fades away,” Isaac says.

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Learn more about him here: 

Do you have a favourite photograph you have ever taken? Could you share why that photograph means a lot to you?

I have favourites. But never one favorite photograph. I like all the photographs I do because the tell me stories of that time. The experience, the emotion behind them, even bad photographs remind me of my failures. That’s why I love all of them.

What do you love about your job? About the art of photography?

I am a story teller. I am a teacher too, at heart. This job gives me the opportunity to do that and more. I meet interesting people all the time. I learn from our encounters. People think that photography is a technical and artistic endeavor, actually it’s not. Truth be said, photography teaches one to look at things in different perspectives. I learn from it like it is some kind of life coach. Problem is, people only perceive photography as something as basic as a job. If only people can see what I see, people will be more understanding and kind.

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What is the most challenging thing about working with people as subjects? 

Patience and the ability to see what they can’t see or say. You need to develop that skill where you can literally read one’s mind in order to interpret what they want or need. This does not happen overnight. It takes years to be patient and to be a mind reader.

What advice would you want to tell your younger self with the knowledge of the craft and the industry you have today?

Just keep on working, just keep on pushing, and never falter. The sacrifices and the hardships are the building blocks of success. Anything that comes easy, also fades easily.

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What do you think about the photography scene in the Philippines? How has it changed and where do you think it will be in the future? 

Technology has jumped so much faster than the humans it was made for. There is a need to assimilate and adopt to these changes. Sad to say, we are a prideful species and we don’t recognise that. Hence, history repeats itself always only with different guises, same dogs with a different collar.