Behind the Lens: Isaac Abakah

Written by Dulce Mercado

Isaac Abakah, better known as Ike, is a photographer originally from Oklahoma now living in Connecticut. Ike went in depth about what has worked for him through his journey as a photographer. 

Photography started as a hobby for Ike back in summer of 2012. It started with an idea of clothing brands that he collaborated with a friend called V-Jay. They decided to team up and put their resources together and come up with a vision. At the beginning, there were other people who would do their shoots for them but it didn't cut it for Ike and his partner. He talked about how difficult it is to have someone else capture your image and really get what you want to out of the shoot. “A lot of people want to take advantage of you when you're starting off,” he says. That is when Ike bought his own camera and took the initiative to do the photography himself. He got involved with the fashion club on campus and grew from there. 

Most of his focus has been on editorials, fashion and musicians. 

At the moment he is working on a project titled “Negus” that will be a publication and drop in the spring. Negus is an Ethiopian word that means king or ruler, according to what Ike told us. Negus started off as “Negus Bluebird” for people darker than blue, it was a “poetic way of referencing minorities with darker skin tones,” he explains. With the project they hope to bring to light diversity and different flavors or black and black cultures. He really stresses bringing the idea that you can be any shade and “we are all human and together.”

NEGUS TRAILER // Directed by Jeremy Grier

Branching off from the fashion photography he does we moved on to how he photographs at venues and show cases. 

“I like music and going out to shows and capture those moments, catching the artist in their zone,” he says. Talking about shooting musicians at shows he explained the challenge of doing so, “it challenges you to use your settings and techniques.” Shows really allow Ike to practice with different techniques and learn new things. Lighting is one the key concepts when photographing at a concert he says. Ike likes to shoot in black and white because you stop paying attention to the color and focus on just the frame.

Aside from both the fashion and music scene photography, Ike does other random shoots to expand his horizon and teach himself new things. For example, he talked about when he was starting off he would go outside and take pictures of pine trees or he would go to the woods and find something that would catch his eye. He mentioned how this was something really relaxed that made him blend in with the surrounding on how his style is now. 

“Take pictures that you like,” he says. 

Doing small things like this was a point of growth for him. He talked about enjoying it so much more by showing so much of you and letting your work be a reflection of yourself. For Ike his growth was due to wake up calls and life. In the past he was caught up in this “Tumblr photography” aesthetic. It mostly consists of half naked women doing the same poses all the time. He realized that this would not get him anywhere nor would it get him the following he wants. That is when he put that to an end and moved forward. He stopped paying attention to what other photographers are shooting and stopped worrying about what other people think. He has taken a leap into paying more attention to what he is shooting himself. Creating emotion or a scenario is what he tries to convey. 

“I try to really pay attention to how the photos make people feel or how my feelings are at the time,” he says. 

He goes about this by capturing a mood and mixing with his and telling a story to get something more poetic.

He envisions things as he listens to music and from there he decides how he wants to bring that image to life by photography. 

“Whenever I hear music I think yo this would be a dope scene in a movie, or how it would look on an add, or try to create scenes and snapshot that,” he says, “then people use their imagination to fill in the loops.”

One thing Ike stresses a lot is to understand and create your thing. He forces himself not to replicate. As he says, “if you can’t find your voice you can’t be heard, project it and stand out.”

His goals are to shoot for major artists such as Kanye and companies like Adidas. To reach these goals and get to that point he believes in connecting, staying consistent and having a platform that is an eye-catcher. 

And with full confidence he says, “no one else compares to me” … “I feel like a lot of people can’t touch what I can do. When I get to the top level its a wrap!”

You cannot touch a person once they truly believe in themselves and have full of confidence. With that being said, keep an eye out for Ike’s work and watch him climb himself to that top tier. 

Follow Ike here and here