A Montrealer from the tip of her toes to the top of her head, Anne McIsaac was born, raised, schooled and married in Montreal. She lives in a 100-year-old house with huge trees in a Victorian neighbourhood 10 minutes from downtown Montreal.
After 25 years as a creative director, mostly in the fashion industry, Anne’s skills is putting her artistic skills by embracing Instagram.
With Montreal as her canvas @yellowillow is documenting the city’s complex blend of colour and culture.
You’ll love her creativity and I’m sure her cheerful imagery will put you in a good mood. Here’s a peek into Anne’s world.
It wasn’t always all about yellow.
At the beginning, I chose my handle mostly because the look of the written word appealed to me and the sound of it was perky.
Then, it organically grew on me and I started noticing that I was getting a lot of reactions when posting yellow.
I liked the clear theme it gave my gallery so I kept exploring.
And, most of all, I can’t say how happy it makes me when people comment that they were having a not so good day and that my yellow pic cheered them up!
Note: If you’re visiting Quebec do try one of the fabulous sugar shacks.
Describe a typical working day
My work has many aspects, which I love, so my days are never the same, which I need.
I just can’t stand doing the same things in the same office day in day out.
I co-owned a thriving communications agency for 10 years and couldn’t take the routine anymore!
So I opted out and am now a happy freelancer; mostly for one client in the men’s fashion industry.
My official title is art/creative director but I’m actually a lot like a complete agency in a small container.
I coordinate campaigns, budget them and manage them in every aspect to make them happen within budget and schedule.
My main interest though is the creative part where I imagine the stories, moods, forms and message of the photo campaigns I’m directing.
As I work mostly in the fashion industry, I get to select models, photographers, makeup artists, stylists, set designers, builders, retouchers and printers to make the vision happen.
On the photo sets, I’m like a maestro making sure every aspect of the world we’re creating is on track.
On occasion, I design logos, books, catalogues, websites and newsletters. I’ve been doing all of this forever, about 25 years!
How has the industry changed?
Social media has changed everything. You have to think differently to get your message out.
There used to be some kind of snobbishness from the advertising world towards the “masses”.
But now it’s been turned around and the clients have the power to shut you down so you have to think fast and shake out of your old reflexes.
Is being an Instagrammer a profession?
Both! I started getting more and more paid contracts but still enjoy sharing and storytelling as much as always.
I feel I have to keep my feed very sincere and recognisable to my followers.
How has Instagram helped you?
I know it sounds cheesy and you heard it all before but I’m dead serious when I say it changed every aspect of my life and work.
It opened a huge window of creativity and expression.
Although I enjoy my creative direction work I was starting to feel discontented with my capacity to express myself totally and it was starting to really get to me.
When I picked up Instagram, I couldn’t believe the possibilities and the total freedom.
Then there are all of those crazy talented and generous photographers to watch and get inspired from.
I made so many real friends of all countries and ages it gave me a lot of confidence and made it feel ok to put myself out there despite my being quite introverted.
Was becoming a photographer your dream?
Not growing up, no. But when I was in university and studying design, I took every photography class I possibly could and those were my favourite.
But I overlooked such a career because my mind was super set on being a designer.
Funny enough though, when I was showing my student portfolio to the head of a big agency, he said he was impressed with my photos and not much about the rest.
I remember thinking he had it all wrong! I was brainwashing myself.
What do you shoot with?
I own a mirrorless Fuji X Pro-1 with a couple of lenses.
A friend suggested I acquire that camera because of the quality of its lenses, sturdiness and lightness.
Many photo-reporters use it on assignment around the world.
I also have a fixed zoom lens Power Shot G1X Mark II from Canon and I carry it with me all the time. It’s very versatile and super compact and light.
Yes, I process my photos all the time. Sometimes heavily, other times very lightly.
What’s your photography style?
I want to show an optimised version of my world. I always idealise the places I come across.
In my mind, some are perfect as is and some need a little or a lot of help to live up to their potential.
I’m always there to help!
I want people to get a sense of wonder and cheer in my gallery.
Do you have a photography philosophy?
Show it like your heart sees it and try to keep it personal.
Photos with the most likes and comments
The Yellow house is in Westmount a wealthy town on the mountain near downtown Montreal
The Magnolia house is in Westmount a wealthy town on the mountain near downtown Montreal
Magnolia blooms are such a fleeting gift. I loved capturing them with my Canon G1X Mark II on my favourite walk in Westmount. #gseriesdaytrip @thecreatorclass Link in my bio A photo posted by Anne McIsaac (@yellowillow) on
The Blue House is in Gaspésie, a vast rural and pristine region in Eastern Quebec between Mountains and River and ocean
A photo posted by Anne McIsaac (@yellowillow) on
Rome was not built in a day. Engagement, quality of the offering, consistency. And tip number four: study your masters.
Favourite Instagram editing apps
It saves shots by fixing their ugly distorted perspective lines.
I paint my shots with it generally and selectively. Newish brush tool is pretty cool.
My favourite editing app with which I finish the shot by adding a touch of poetry through the very well-crafted filters created by talented photographers
What’s your favourite season in Montreal?
Fall, obviously because of all the yellow leaves in the trees and on the ground.
Almost as favourite is winter because it’s like a fairytale.
Here are more things to do in Montreal in spring.
What are the best things about Montreal?
People living creatively together. Respect and equality.
I know it’s not all perfect, but I see a lot of hope here.
When I was in my twenties and starting to travel the world, I thought Montreal was boring upon each return, but now I’m always keen to find fantastic qualities all around my city.
I like pretty much everything about Montreal except downtown which totally lacks character and guts.
This may change thanks to frantic high-rise building going on. But really, the residential neighbourhoods are really appealing and colourful.
My neighbourhood is also just next to the very wealthy city of Westmount where I have my favourite houses that I like to photograph in all seasons.
The cafe and restaurant scene in Montreal is fantastic.
And the people all look stunning!
There’s a strong sense of style and fantastic genes!
A friend from abroad while sipping wine on a terrace once cried out: “Do you kill ugly people?”
What are your favourite places to photograph in Montreal?
1- Westmount and all its super well-maintained Victorian houses and crazy gardens.
2- Museums and art galleries although those pics are always my less liked.
3- Mount-Royal, which is our mountain smack in the middle of the city.
4- Anywhere on any street where I encounter fun yellow elements.
5- My yellow wall in my house
Where do you go in Montreal when life gets a bit hectic?
1- Westmount Greenhouse
2- My yoga studio, Wanderlust Montreal
3- L’Arsenal, a contemporary art gallery as huge as its ambition to curate young and brilliant talent.
Favourite Montreal restaurants
1- Le Bouillon Bilk for brilliant and sharp bistro cuisine
2- The Tuck Shop for seasonal cooking with market-fresh products in a simple no-fuss but nice décor.
3- Cafe Rumi for Middle Eastern, Central Asian and North African homemade cuisine in an exotic heart-warming decor.
1-Cafe Myriade under Club Monaco on Ste-Catherine Street. Too beautiful.
2-Cafe Parvis on Mayor in the old fur district. The light in the morning is wonderful.
3-Cafe Falco on de Gaspé. Beautiful space and great siphon coffee
Favourite place to shop
Mile End on St-Laurent, which has loads of independent, artsy shops, and Club Monaco (above the above mentioned Cafe Myriade). Note to self: Must not go to often because it is expensive!
If you had to move where would you choose?
I may be tempted to move to Toronto because I find it very photogenic.
But from what I hear I may prefer Vancouver although I’ve never visited.
Three places on your bucket list in Canada
1- Vancouver and the Rockies while I’m there.
2- Yukon for its total wilderness and Yukon Northern Lights
3- Labrador for the tallest mountains in Eastern America and ridiculously amazing wilderness. I’ll cheat and add Fogo Island and Fogo Island Inn. I was there last April and just want to go back!
Anne McIsaac is a freelance creative director and Instagrammer who lives in Montreal.