Aimee Isakson is a Canadian flight attendant based in Vancouver who loves to travel, surf, and photograph it all along the way. Her passion for seeking out and exploring surf communities around the world marks her as a true artist, and this passion is reflected in the beauty of her images that capture the essence of each spot she visits. Her approach is to find a balance between stillness and action.
Here are some insights from Aimee on a life lived on the road, chasing waves:
You picked up your first camera when you were just nine. What do you remember about that first experience behind the lens?
Aimee Isakson: A feeling of freedom. My parents bought me my first camera at seven. On a family trip to Europe at nine, I was able to first explore taking pictures of things I thought were important. That feeling of independence at a young age is what got me hooked.
You come from a family of photographers. How did this influence the way you approach photography?
Both my mom and sister have a creative streak – painting, drawing, and photography – however, neither of them do it as a profession. My grandfather owned a photography business back in the day. I was young when he passed away but his passion fueled both my mom and aunt’s creativity, which has in turn been passed on to my sister and I. Because we all share a creative streak, it’s fun to exchange ideas and encourage each other with our artistic endeavors.
What is your favorite part of the process of deciding where what and who to capture in an image?
I love the research component when deciding on the next trip where I’ll shoot. I’m not much of a city girl so when I’m in a small surf town I’m in my element. These places have a feeling of simplicity. In my travels, the more simple life is, the happier people seem to be. I try to be unobtrusive as a photographer – this approach works well for me and the kind of shots I like to take. I’ll sit on the beach, on the street or on the back of a motorbike or high up on a cliff waiting for something that stands out. This is my creative process. When I get home and upload the photos, I feel incredibly happy.
You grew up in the picturesque town of Salmon Arm, British Columbia. How did this environment influence your work as a photographer?
Salmon Arm is an amazing place to grow up. My parents owned a large campground on the Shuswap Lake for most of my childhood. With the campground being right on the lake, I swam every day and rarely had any responsibilities other than being home for dinner. A couple I looked up to and who lived at the campground during the summer had a ski boat. They taught me how to wakeboard. I was hooked. I’m now obsessed with all board sports and thrive on the energy of the lifestyle and culture surrounding it. I’m a wanderlust Pisces so being in, on, or by water is where I’m meant to be.
The west coast of Canada has a unique beach culture. What sets it apart from other beach cultures?
There’s a place called Tofino on Vancouver Island. It’s a magical place. What really draws me to the area is the surf culture. You do have to wear a wetsuit year round but both the winter and summer seasons attract surfers for different reasons. In the summer months, surfers and tourists flock there for the weekend markets, whale watching, hot springs, hiking, and of course the waves. In the winter months, the storms come in and bring waves with them. Tofino is a quaint little beach town with a true community feel. Surf shops, local independent cafes and artisan gift shops thrive in this town, whose roots are based in passion and creativity.
You were recently in Nicaragua. What was the focus of this trip? How do you feel post trip?
I didn’t know I was going until two days before I jumped on a plane (a perk of being a flight attendant). I was either going to Australia or Nicaragua. The reason for this last trip was to celebrate my birthday. It’s become an annual ritual to be in a different country with my toes in the sand, sun on my skin, and surrounded by new people in a new place. Nicaragua won out after a friend who works in a cute fishing and surfing village called El Transito invited me for a visit. I spent the first week there with the Solid Surf & Adventure crew then moved down to Madaras Village just outside of San Juan del Sur for the remainder of my trip. I was able to connect and network with some very inspiring people in the surf industry. I can’t say enough good things about Nicaragua – the locals are amazing, the food is fresh and the sights are breathtaking.
I’m back in Vancouver and although I love it here, I’m feeling kind of sad. There’s something special about a more simple life. People are laid back and there’s less focus on the material things. Hair dries in the warm sun, makeup is obsolete, and no one notices if you’ve worn that same black dress every single night.
Although photography is not (yet) your day job, your job as a flight attendant for West Jet Airlines must take you to some spectacular spots. Did you have the travel bug before you became a flight attendant?
I most definitely had the bug long before the job with West Jet. It started after a year of solo backpacking around Australia at 19. That trip exposed me to independence and the wonderful connections made with other travelers. A few years later, after a rough breakup, I jumped on a plane to Southeast Asia. During this trip, I realized how travel played a pivotal role in my life. Although I am always on a plane for work, it is this job that affords me the opportunities to explore the world and for that I’m grateful.
Do you foresee this passion (photography) becoming a full-time profession? If so, where would you like to settle down, if anywhere?
I definitely see my passion becoming a full-time profession but I can’t pinpoint exactly what that looks like right now. I see my surf lifestyle photography as a way of expressing my creative side. The passion for photography helps me focus on where I want to go and which new beaches I want to explore. My online portfolio of work allows me to share the beauty of each surf destination in an organic and artistic way.
Where is your dream place to travel and shoot surf lifestyle?
I’ve been fortunate to travel to most of my dream spots (another bonus of being a flight attendant) but there is one destination that I’m keen to explore: Morocco. It’s not the typical surf spot, but the colors, culture, people, and the rumors of good waves have me wondering if this could be the next place I go. It sounds intriguing. Traveling to the next surf break by camel? Yes, please.