Photographer Iza living with her Heart fully Open

12 Feb 2021
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What is your Koh Phangan story?
I arrived in March 2013 from India where I was living for five years. The original plan was to stay for one month, do some yoga, relax and go back to India as I had all of my life there.
A friend told me about the one-month intensive program at Agama, so I got a place in Sritanu.

After two weeks into the course, they offered me a job as an event photographer and a few days later I got to do a photoshoot for Kupu Kupu Resort. this is where I met my friend Nina.

One night, she took me out to ‘The Place’ bar and introduced me to Sharon, CEO of Phanganist, it was a busy time for him and he was looking for an assistant photographer to document the parties, so I started working for him as well, shooting at Jungle Party, Sramanora, Loi Lay, Merkaba, etc…

And this is how I could stick around, I’ve had the chance to meet amazing people straight away, it felt like it was the universe sending me all those opportunities for me to stay here and explore what the island has to offer.

For me, life here has developed on two main axes; one was about yoga and everything related: acro yoga, meditation, tantra, sacred practices, ancient philosophies. And the second one was about all the magic that happens on our wild dancefloors, their raw beauty, the freedom of a barefoot dance, the communion with other happy dancers through music, the amazing sunrise sessions.

There is some serious magic happening on Koh Phangan dancefloors. And soon enough, I realised that they give the space for the same kind of spiritual realisation or inner transformation we expect on a yoga mat. They are not just ‘parties’ and the two tribes (yoga/parties) are not so different from each other than they look or think they are. By going fully into both, I understood that big principle of Oneness. We are all the same, we just choose different tools to reach the same universal goals. It’s been fascinating to observe, and it’s been a very rich and exciting journey for me. It felt like home very quickly.

What got you interested in photography?
I wanted to get into it for a long time as a teenager but I studied languages and international business which got me a job as a translator in Bombay where the life I wanted really started. There also, I got lucky to meet the right people at the right time, I got involved in the art and underground scene very quickly and that’s how I started to explore photography.

One month after I arrived in Bombay, in 2008, I met some guys who were just starting their cultural events company ‘Bombay Elektrik Projekt’, they needed pictures to support the promotion of those events and offered me to start the adventure with them as a resident photographer.

And then, thanks to the magic of facebook, I made a reputation for myself very quickly in the city and started shooting for all kind of shows and cultural events, with a main focus on the music and underground party scene, after a little while I was booked to document festivals (Live From The Console, Ragastan, NH7, BassCamp, etc) or international acts all over India.

So how did you learn?
I am totally self taught. I had dedicated myself to studies and travels until I was twenty five and one day, I decided it was time to be more faithful to myself and tap into creativity through different mediums, but I focused on photography,

I bought a camera, started to play with it and I quickly got opportunities to shoot for clients in the art and music industry in Bombay.

It’s just been a story of learning on the spot, a ‘fake it till you make it’  I would develop my skills and experiment more to meet clients expectations, which has been great because it forces you to go out of your comfort zone straight away.

Till date, my photography evolves with the environment I’m in, the difficulties and technicalities I have to deal with, the people I meet, clients, photographer friends… It’s in constant evolution, it’s a never ending learning process. As they say: ‘The more I know, the more I know that I don’t know’, which is a good thing because it keeps you on your toes, and it keeps the game exciting.

What do you use for inspiration?

I’ve had a phase where I would spend a lot of time online looking at artist’s work that I would be sensitive to. That would be as much of an inspiration as a stress of not being good enough.

Then I kinda stopped referring to other’s work and would just simply connect with my desire to capture emotions. I have always been fascinated by the human nature, how people think, express, interact, I’m constantly studying them, not even consciously, I’m good at observing and analyzing, so capturing all that in a picture is very interesting to me…and again, you get what you give, so I guess, it was just the logical thing that ‘by chance’ the first gigs I got were exactly about that, so I developed my craft around it, focusing on performers, mainly musicians, djs and dancers.

Photography is not just a way to document events, it is also a powerful therapeutic tool.

I explored a lot with autoportrait, way before selfies were trendy, it was my way for self-enquiries, another tool to go deeper into the big ‘who am I?’.

I’ve also been working with women and realised how a photo session can help when it comes to developing self-confidence as well self-love, and get rid of the fear of judgment that is so present in the world. A photograph is actually more about what’s happening behind the camera than in front of it. If you take a portrait with a specific intention, that’s what is gonna come out. So if you work with the intention of beauty and aesthetic, that is what will come out, it can do wonders on someone’s relationship with themselves.

What kinds of photo’s have you been doing on Phangan?
Logically, because of my lifestyle and the people I get connected to, I have been taking pictures  mainly for the party/artists tribe on one hand and the yoga crowd on the other hand.

I do parties, artists portfolios, yoga classes, workshops, sacred ceremonies, yoga teachers portfolios, acro-yoga pictures.

Other than that, I have also done some interior photography with resorts, and some fashion photography, and there are always some more personal projects I’m happy to help with when the concept looks interesting to me.

Do you do a different style when it’s not for a job?

I kind of stopped doing that although I used to, that’s the minus point when a passion becomes a job. That said, I want to get back to more intimate photography this season, there are some projects I’ve had in mind for a while I’d like to execute and I’m still gonna keep people as a main subject.

What are your current and future projects?
Life is and will keep busy with photography, yoga and dancing.

I just came back six weeks ago from Europe, where I was touring with the band Goayandi as their official photographer.

Goayandi is a beautiful French project in which my man plays the sitar and the percussions, they do ‘organic natural trance’, it’s a full of magic, it’s tribal and elegant at the same time.

They take you on a beautiful musical journey and they make you dance, you should check them out!

So, I came back here in November, and four days later, I was fully involved in a five-week intensive yoga course training future yoga teachers, ‘The Heart Of Ashtanga’ led by Lorraine Taylor, one of the best and most experienced teachers on the island, with whom I trained myself as a teacher two years ago and this time I was her first assistant on the course. It was really good to get back to a very disciplined and intense practice for that long as I left a bit of that part of my life behind when I was in Europe .

For now, I’m already booked to shoot events, like Sramanora next week or the Mystical Dance Teacher Training, happening in February, with Monika Nataraj as I was the official photographer for both events last seasons.

I just started teaching yoga four times a week at the resort The Coast in Haad Rin and I’ll offer private yoga classes as I used to do last year.

And I’m gonna trust life and just stay open for more photography projects.

And if I get some free time in between all that and the dancing sessions, I’d like to try aerial silk this season!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I would say here, that would be my first answer. But, let’s see, life is full of surprises and things change so quickly. I’m not really good at planning long term, but yeah, most of the year here, and three months in Europe during Summer, touring with the band from festival to festival, that sounds like a plan.

What do you think is the special thing about Koh Phangan that makes you stay?
They are so many things, I could talk for ages about it!

Life is just beautiful here, it’s simple, it’s free, it’s rich, it’s fun, it’s slow… It’s natural… Life here is more natural, it makes you more connected to yourself, to others and to the planet.

Most people who choose to live here have their mind and heart fully open, which is very refreshing. Not anyone will make the choice to leave everything behind for a more simple life on an island, it takes a certain kind of personality, a certain mind set. So, that only makes the population like a ‘very special crowd’

It’s a bit like this island is a concentration of the most crazy, smart, fun, amazing people of the planet.

Music is a key element of life here, which I love, whether it’s on a dance floor, at a bhajan, or just as an improvised jam on the beach at sunset, it makes life alive, music and magic.

There is so much magic here, it’s everywhere, it’s amazing, things happen on a different vibration. It’s like a little bubble that would not get polluted by the world’s madness and the general fear energy that rules it. It’s a little privileged paradise that offers infinite possibilities for evolution, but that requires also sacrifices. You give, you get, that’s how the universe works.

Anyway, to me, it’s like I finally found a place that has everything I need to be happy.

What is your life philosophy?

I have many little sentences I love to repeat to myself:

“Life is now!” Live in the now, cause that’s the only reality, and again, that’s a philosophy that is easier to go by when we live here.

“You give, you get” Giving and receiving is actually the same thing, it’s beautiful when you get it.

“I Am You and You are Me, We are not separate”.

And also: “Bandaiii!!”, that’s our leitmotiv with the Goayandi boys since we met two years ago in Phangan.