© ISI AKAHOME
Six years ago, Isi Akahome packed up his things and began the long journey from his hometown in Nigeria to the considerably colder city of Chicago. At the time, he never could have imagined that he’d be doing what he is today— shooting fashion photography for a living.
At 23, Akahome is still figuring life out. This past summer, he graduated from DePaul University with a degree in biology. When Akahome first came to the states, he intended on becoming a pharmacist, but a chance encounter with a camera changed all that.
He was strolling through Target with his brother, when a DSLR caught his eye. He picked it up and snapped a shot of his brother. He fell in love with how it looked and immediately went home to research what camera he should buy. Before he knew it, he had begun shooting constantly and worked his way up from a Canon T3i all the way to a Sony RX1, which is what he uses today.
Akahome is far from established. He falls very clearly in the “emerging” category of photographers, but, even so, he’s using every ounce of his energy to further his career on his terms. He regularly shoots campaigns and promos for designers in the Chicago area and, when he’s not on a gig, he’s making his own. He frequently arranges shoots with professional models and locations to test and shoot.
Akahome’s strategy is basically, “Fake it until you make it.” For the last year, he’s worked hard at developing a look and style that he can call his own. It goes beyond how he shoots to how he processes. He says that he is constantly mixing tones and hues to find unique and impactful looks that will catch the viewers’ eyes.
“I want people in Chicago to see my work and go, ‘Oh yeah that's Isi's photography,” says Akahome.
When he’s not working on his own look, he tries to mimic others. During a recent shoot, Akahome consciously decided to construct photos that mimicked Calvin Klein’s look, from the poses to the lighting and coloration. His reasoning is simple: he wants to show to designers and potential clients that his photography is high-end, just like their products.
“I want my photos to be on billboards, in magazines, and on posters,” says Akahome bluntly.
Akahome’s goal may be ambitious, but he seems ready to put his money where his mouth is. This year, he intends to put all his time into pursuing photography as a career. He’s quietly studying for pharmacy school exams, but when he says its his backup plan, it sounds half-hearted.
For many 23-year-olds, the question is, “What do I do with my life?” For Akahome, it’s “How do I get there?”