For those who don't know you and who you are, please introduce yourself.
My name is Anne McIsaac aka yellowillow on social media. I studied Graphic Design in college and still work as a freelance Art / Creative director. The core of my work as such is in Men’s Fashion. I also present myself as a photographer, something I didn’t dare to do before in fear of imposter syndrome! But I get more and more assignments as a content creator and influencer for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - so I guess it’s ok now.
You were born and raised in Montreal. What kind of impact did it have on you growing up and what does it now? And how do you think it impacts your photography?
When I was growing up, Montreal was Canada’s metropolis. This made us feel like kings and queens. But thanks to political turmoil generated by fear of the outcome of the Separatists campaigns, almost all of the Head offices moved to Toronto leaving Montreal quite diminished and miserable. Somehow this impacted the capacity of the city to create great and cohesive urban projects. Let’s say I didn’t find my city very pretty, nor elegant. But after traveling quite a bit, I came to love Montreal's freedom and open mindedness not to mention creative drive and good heartedness. So this feeling translated in an appetite to tell stories of a colorful life in colorful and happy photographs.
How have you seen the city change over the years?
There's been a steady influx of immigrants from all around the world, creating a very dynamic cultural melting pot. Although there are integration difficulties, the younger generations all mingle and everybody benefits from this.
I've read that you chose your handle, yellowillow, because of how it looked and sounded. But do you remember how you initially even came up with it? Were you only trying names around yellow or multiple colors?
You are absolutely right, I came up with yellowillow because I was fond of willow trees. The tree and the name. I just added the word yellow to make it unique and could be used as a handle. Why yellow? Because it rhymes with willow! It’s really that simple. There probably was a dose of subconscious thinking involved here!
Do you have a certain method or strategy to finding yellow things to shoot? Or does it just naturally happen most of the time?
I developed a radar. I’m probably obsessed. So my eye catches every little bit of yellow out there. And there is a lot more than you may think! So I challenge myself to make those found scenes handsome. But I do a fair amount of creating yellow scenes from scratch. I have a lot of yellow things and yellow walls to play with.
You were a Creative Director for 25 years and now you freelance. How did you get into that role to begin with? Was it something you wanted to do your whole life?
I am fortunate enough to have always knew what I wanted to do. It’s a great luxury to pursue your education knowing you are in the right place. I’m a little hard headed so I didn’t work for others very long. Rather, I teamed up with a fashion photographer to co-create and set up creatives for his clients. Then I co-founded a communications agency and worked on more fashion related projects for ten or so years. Even if I was co-owner, I got bored of agency life so I sold and went on freelancing. I’ve never been happier!
From your perspective in that role, how do you feel Instagram has changed the landscape of the art, editorial, and fashion world?
I think Instagram is part of the electronic wave that is killing the printed industry. Thanks to customizable preferences, one can program exactly what she feels like seeing. It has unlocked those worlds and made them readily open for all who have an interest to create within them. The power to contribute is within anybody who’s willing to work hard to express themselves.
When you're creating campaigns and imagining the mood/story, how much do you draw from Instagram for inspiration?
Men’s tailored fashion being my main thing, you can imagine a fair amount of stiffness is involved in every aspect of a production. Thanks to Instagram and all of the awesome artists, there is a wave of authenticity and life and a hunger for such from the audience. I’m feeding my clients on that wave and it’s exciting!
What did you think of Instagram's new re-design earlier this year?
It’s a little impersonal but I find it more modern and clean. Change is usually good and a re-design can’t be that wrong, right?
How do you feel about how the app and community has changed in general over the years?
Like almost everyone I feel slightly estranged by the new algorithm and the difficulty to reach our usual audience. This results in a steady loss of followers and a hefty drop in engagement. The fact that we care shows how much we are addicted to the attention and recognition. Not sure that’s the right way of behaving creatively.
Who do you look up to in the photography world and just in general?
Instagram photography world: Simone Bramante @brahmino. His use of light and colour paired with a childlike playfulness never ceases to amaze me. Political world: I’m super proud of my country (that’s Canada) for having elected a liberal, young, dynamic, authentic and inclusive Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. A breath of fresh air after years of backward and partisan actions from the previous government.
Interview by Jack Sommer