Izzy Commers is a young photographer based out of Minneapolis, but always elsewhere. A glance at Izzy’s portfolio reveals a resonance of primary colors, intimate portraits of friends and strange still lifes taken over the past few years. A glimpse inside Izzy Commer’s mind reveals a growing introspective persona reflecting on their self and work.
Where are you currently based?
I’ve been touring/traveling for the past few months, so it’s hard to feel tied down anywhere at the moment. Right now I’m living in Minnesota, but I’ll go wherever opportunity takes me
Where did you grow up and how did your environment influence you?
I feel like I’m constantly understanding how my environment influences me. As a younger kid I didn’t understand how to digest a lot of what was happening in my life. I was angry,
I hardly spoke at all, just listened and observed.
I didn’t know how to express who I was because I didn’t know who I was.
Or maybe I’ve always known inside, but didn’t see enough of myself in those surrounding me to feel that my identity was valid.
You gotta have experiences that help you find your feet as a human being.
One conversation could answer so many questions about yourself you didn’t even know you had.
One picture could do the same – seeing the look in someone’s eyes & knowing they feel what you feel. That’s timeless.
My environment led me to the place where making things just felt like something I had to do. I didn’t really think about it, I took pictures of the things that interested me. I drew the things that interested me. The beginning of my world began with my breaking point in reality. When existing felt like too much I would make something, or just cry haha. Crying is important. There was a period of years where I cried every single night. I’ve always cried a lot though, I was never good at hiding it or holding it back.
I feel a lot, and it can be overwhelming.
What inspired you to pick up a camera in the first place?
The first time I remember taking pictures..
I was really little, not big enough to sit in the front seat of a car yet
Someone gave me a disposable camera to use on this trip I was going on
..somewhere in the southwest.
I was so excited I used it all the day we got there haha
The camera was all mine you know?
It was mine to use how I wanted, to take photos of whatever I wanted
There were no limits, no rules
I was in this new place, everything was new to me & I wanted to capture it
I think that just got me obsessed with capturing things
moments & experiences
On a usual day, what do you carry around with you?
people keep telling me, “Minoltas are cheap, it’ll be an easy replacement!”
But for me it’s like having your dog die.. you wouldn’t just go get a new one the next day.
I’ve been shooting a lot of 120mm in the meantime.
Shooting 120mm is a different dynamic between me and the subject than 35mm, there’s pros and cons. It’s good in that it’s forcing me to get better at it,
I appreciate working within restrictions because it forces you to be more creative. I used to care more about having the “best” camera equipment, but I started to realize that I could do a lot with a little.
The camera is just a tool, and ultimately, the best camera is the one you have with you.
You should never allow your tools to dominate your work.
Last year I came across this musician Steve Lacy. I knew about him cuz he’s in the Internet and the same age as me. Heard one of his songs
I was flo
Instantly my favorite song.
Crept through his twitter & found out he made the song on his phone… I really appreciated that. If my favorite song can be made on an iPhone I don’t have any excuse not to succeed with what I have.
You became well known for your own inimitable style of photography at such a young age. Did you face any challenges because of that?
Overcoming the temptations of instant gratification through social media.
It’s really easy to get caught up in it all. Especially at a young age when you’re already looking for validation at every corner.
I was trying to figure out what I was doing, who I was.
I think it’s natural to want people to like you, take you seriously, validate what you’re doing.. I cared less about who I took feedback from, and who’s opinions I let affect me.
Being in school was challenging for a lot of reasons
Our educational system is ass
Do you art direct your own photoshoots? How do you approach photoshoots and the subjects you photograph?
I don’t do much planning for my photoshoots.
For me, taking a photo is like combining yourself with your subject.
Finding the balance between capturing them and making the photo yours.
You have to reach a point of emotional openness with your subject where you can have a genuine connection with them. You have to feel what your subject is feeling. You have to care about understanding your subject. You have to earn that connection. I want people to look at my photos and feel like they know the person. Sometimes that’s harder than others. You never know how generous or conservative someone will be with their personality and feelings. You never know what someone is going to be like.
I’m not one to prepare for a photoshoot by trying to envision specific compositions, that ends up feeling forced to me. I don’t want to project all of myself onto them, I want it to be a collaboration, and that can’t happen until we’re in the moment.
If you have a genuine moment with someone while taking a photo, people will feel that when they look at it. That’s important.
What’s in your forecast for 2017?
I’m working on my first book right now, and I want to have a gallery show release when it’s finished. I already have a whole plan of how I would want it set up.
I’d really like to find a photographer to work under for a while. I want to live somewhere else for a bit & be in a learning environment. I think you’ve got to have a real connection to your mentors though, so it’s not something you can necessarily seek out or plan. I know the right person will come across my work when the time is right.
Are there any themes or concepts you are interested in investigating in future work?
I’m interested in the human condition, the human experience. There’s a lot to explore within that. Humans are complex, that’s what my book is about.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring artists and photographers?
I think there’s a lot of lessons you have to learn on your own. You have to understand things for yourself. I can give lots of advice, but it is also my advice not to blindly listen to anybody.
• You should be very cautious of who you allow yourself to be influenced by. Who’s advice you take, who’s opinion you ask for. Ask yourself why you care what they think.
At the end of the day, listen to your gut. You know what’s best for you better than anyone else.
• Don’t compromise your vision and what you want to do to be successful in the industry. If you aren’t staying true to you what’s the point? Paving your own road is harder than driving down roads that have already been built, but you can go build it in whatever direction you want.
• Don’t oversaturate yourself with content.
• Everything happens for a reason
What is something most people don’t know about you?
What do you do outside of photography/work?
I started making clothes recently !!
There’s a lot of mediums I want to explore/am exploring outside of photography.
I’m not trying to put myself in a box
There’s so many interesting things to learn about and experience, that’s a thought that keeps me going
Favorite Instagram account of the moment?
One film recommendation:
Reely and Truly by Tyrone Lebon
How old are you?