The Great Discontent

The Great Discontent

Megan McIsaac self portrait

Megan McIsaac

Born and raised in Southeast Michigan and now based in California, Megan Kathleen McIsaac is a freelance portrait and documentary photographer who has been making images daily since the age of seven.

  • photographer

TGD Mag Issue ThreeEditor’s note: This is a print-first feature, originally published in The Great Discontent, Issue Three. Pick up the print magazine in our online shop.

Buy Issue 3

It’s funny—when we reached out to you for this feature, we had no idea you were thinking about moving. Our third print issue is about possibility, reinvention, transformation. Those certainly seem to be strong themes in your life right now. Yes, they’re certainly the strongest themes in my life right now. I’ve been nomadic for the past eight months, and I’m trying to figure out where in the world makes the most sense for me to build a home. I’ve been looking at houses in Joshua Tree, California, but I’m still feeling a great pull from Los Angeles. It might be best for me to stay in the city for a while longer. I really just want a studio in Southern California and a vehicle to drive around the country in. I love being on the road. I thrive when I’m in transition and become antsy if I stay in one place for too long.

You’ve been taking pictures since your grandfather gave you a camera when you were seven years old. What has been the biggest “Aha!” moment that you’ve had—personally or professionally—while making photographs? I’m not sure if there’s one specific “Aha!” moment that stands out to me. I genuinely feel like I have one every time I photograph. One of my earliest memories from childhood, even before my grandfather gifted me my first camera, was the realization that I needed to document everything. From the age of five, I spent hours looking through my grandfather’s National Geographic magazine collection, and I immediately knew—even before I understood the words on the pages—that I needed to travel the world and document my perception of it.

Nouel Riel
Nouel Riel, 2014

“I think it’s easy to capture beauty because I truly find beauty in everything, all the time. But I’m more interested in the challenge of digging deeper into what makes people tick and exploring why they are uncomfortable with their rawness.”

The portraits you make, including your self-portraits, have such an honest quality. What drives you to capture people in such a natural, unproduced way? Thank you. I’m completely driven by honesty and compassion. Everything has a spirit, and the spirit is what I feel I’ve always noticed first, far before any masks or personas. We all have masks, and I respect how people present themselves to me, but when I photograph I’m very focused on the spirit and the aura of a person over their beauty or aesthetic. I think it’s easy to capture beauty because I truly find beauty in everything, all the time. But I’m more interested in the challenge of digging deeper into what makes people tick and exploring why they are uncomfortable with their rawness.

While I’m conscious of the way I shoot, I don’t think about it too much—it’s just how I’ve always looked at life. When I photograph myself, which I’ve been doing since I was 10 years old, it’s a process of peeling back my own masks and trying to reveal what my spirit looks like, which has been the greatest challenge of all. Of course I like to have fun sometimes and play with concepts and costumes, but even so, it’s more about creating a new mythology rather than creating something for the sake of beauty.

In a culture obsessed with perfection, your photographs embrace a sense of vulnerability. When was the last time you felt really vulnerable? Right now I feel more vulnerable than I’ve ever felt before. Last year I went through a really rough breakup with a partner I had been with for almost four years. When that happened, I literally left everything behind. Since then it’s been one great challenge after another, and I’ve completely surrendered to the growth, like a rebirth, knowing in my heart that all of this change and uncertainty is what I need to truly learn how to love and trust myself, and to discover the best path for myself. I know that by allowing myself to be vulnerable and by learning to really love myself, it will give freedom to those around me to do the same.

You founded Inspired Women of LA (IWLA), a community where women of the arts meet for conversation, collaboration, and inspiration. Tell me more about it. LA is such a goldmine for badass female artists. I started IWLA two years ago with the intent of creating a space for all of the incredible female artists I know to finally meet each other, discover other women to collaborate with, and, of course, be inspired by. We host all different kinds of gatherings, we have a directory with everyone’s contact info, a blog to share the work that’s happening, a section for finding housing, and a section for finding work.

I come from a huge family of dudes, and I never had many girlfriends growing up, but I have always felt very passionate about the obvious lack of equality between genders. Different kinds of conversations happen when it’s only women—there’s a completely different tone that’s set when you have a room full of women. So I think it’s necessary to keep it exclusive to women at this time in history. IWLA now has over 7,000 women involved and I’m working hard to figure out the best next step for it. I dream of it becoming a resource in every major city, and I’m still searching for the right little team to help keep it relevant, organized, and focused on creation.

You seem to embrace adventure without fear—or maybe you just appear to be fearless. You’ve lived in multiple cities, traveled across the country, and spent a good amount of time on the road. What’s your next adventure? I am fearless. It doesn’t mean fear isn’t present, but I’m always working to replace fear with love.

If I had to, I would label myself an adventurer before calling myself an artist. My biggest goal in life is to sustain an honest, healthy lifestyle while traveling the world. I want to document all of the most interesting people, from all walks of life. You can learn so much from looking into the eyes of another human or seeing the way in which other cultures live. Too many people try to control others and their environments. Adventure is the release of control. The only control we have is over the choices we make for ourselves.

The options for living are infinite and every choice we make, even how we choose to think, affects everything around us. There are so many things I want to do and learn about. I create art everywhere I go, but I don’t hold onto it because I know everything is constantly changing. Who I am today is different from who I’ll be tomorrow. That said, I try not to take it too seriously. I try not to think about it too much. I’m just always ready for the next adventure.

One last question. What words would you offer to dreamers dreaming of doing the “impossible”? I’ve carried this Audrey Hepburn quote around in my head since childhood: “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” Let go of your thoughts and all of your fears. Stop grasping at water, and trust your intuition. Anything is possible.interview close

TGD Mag Issue ThreeThis is a print-first feature, originally published in The Great Discontent, Issue Three. Pick up the print magazine in our online shop.

Buy Issue 3

Myrtle
Myrtle FW14
Hale Appleman
Hale Appleman, 2014
Nouel Riel
Nouel Riel, 2014

“You can learn so much from looking into the eyes of another human or seeing the way in which other cultures live. Too many people try to control others and their environments. Adventure is the release of control. The only control we have is over the choices we make for ourselves.”

Imperial Sand Dunes, Glamis, California
Imperial Sand Dunes, Glamis, California 2015
Imperial Sand Dunes, Glamis, California
Imperial Sand Dunes, Glamis, California 2015