“There’s a photo I saw when I was in the seventh grade, of a woman with her kids during the great depression, and you could just see this look of despair on her face,” said U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Isaiah Lopez. “The details, the dirt, the sweat on her face, you could just feel how tired she was.”
The photograph, called “Migrant Mother,” gave Lopez a new way to look at life by showing him how fragile and sensitive the world can be in certain moments, and how those moments can be captured and remembered with a photograph.
“You can capture some pretty powerful moments in people’s lives,” said Lopez. “It’s almost like you get to freeze time for a brief second and hold on to it forever.”
The effects of that image lingered with Lopez throughout his school years. It led him to develop a passion for photography, and eventually, become a photographer himself.
He was introduced to the inner-workings of cameras and photography in a high school class, but most of what he knows is self-taught. He teaches himself how to use every part of his camera by going out and using it as often as possible.
Lopez enjoys photographing anything from landscapes and people, to everyday objects like cars and even his little alarm clock.
“I guess you could say I’m a photographer of life,” said Lopez.
He also likes to keep his photos as natural as possible, avoiding the use of filters in most cases in preference of using the raw image.
“A lot of photographers try to distort reality with some of their photographs, and I guess with my photos I try to capture the natural beauty of things,” he said. “Part of the experience of trying to make someone feel like they are there is to keep the photo as real as possible.”
Lopez likes to use his natural imagery to make people feel as if they are a part of the moments he captures. He goes from place to place, landscape to landscape, to put people in places they might never otherwise see for themselves.
In the three years since he enlisted, he’s been deployed to countries such as Japan, Kuwait and Korea and has had the opportunity to visit others including Germany, Qatar and Thailand, offering him a wide variety of scenes and images to photograph and share with his audience.
“The Marine Corps has allowed me to bring the world to people through photography,” said Lopez. “I have friends back home that follow my Instagram, see my photos and it inspires them to get out and travel.”
Along with “Migrant Mother,” Lopez’s grandfather has served as one of his biggest inspirations since he was young.
His grandfather used to take photos for local newspapers in Honduras, and eventually, he built and owned a photo company called Fotoquito, a name Lopez has taken and used on his social media accounts.
“With my granddad’s photos it felt like the people he captured didn’t even know he was there,” said Lopez. “It really brought out that raw emotion. Forty years later, a lot of them still make you feel as if you’re there with those people.”
His grandfather continued his life as a photographer after immigrating to the U.S. and then passed it on to his son who passed it on to Lopez.
Though he doesn’t plan to make a career out of it, Lopez has already sold some of his photographs to friends and eventually wants to sell more on the side.
“I want to get my work out there,” he said. “I want to have my photographs in a gallery somewhere, and I want people from different places to enjoy them.”
He wants his photos to get people to go places they’ve never been to and do things they never thought of.
“Even if it’s just to go to a grocery store to make a recipe they haven’t made before, just because they saw pictures of some food I took,” he said.
Lopez constantly takes his camera with him everywhere he goes to capture as many moments as he can, and he sees himself doing so for years to come. He hopes to move and inspire people so that ultimately, they too can go out and capture their own moments in time.
Story by Lance Cpl. Carlos Jimenez