I see so much photography on a daily basis that a lot of it all kind of starts to look the same after a while. But occasionally I am surprised and caught off guard.
When the work of Sweden-based Gabriel Isak came onto my screen, I was immediately fascinated. It has a surreal beauty to it with a level of perfection that almost makes his photographs look like illustrations. DIYP got in touch with Gabriel to find out more.
Gabriel told DIYP that he began exploring photography in 2006. At the time, he says that he was suffering from depression and photography became a way for him to express himself and his state of mind. He started with self-portraits, however, he quickly lost his passion for everything as he fell deeper into depression.
It’s a feeling to which I know a lot of photographers I’ve spoken to through the years can relate.
Gabriel told DIYP that on picking up photography again in 2014, he unconsciously began creating surreal and melancholic images. Images that were all related to the times in his life when he was suffering from depression and the struggles he’d been going through.
I picked photography up again to make it a profession in 2014 after I had battled the depression during a seven year long struggle. At the time I was going to Academy of Art University in San Francisco, obtaining my BFA in Photography and graduated in December 2016. From there on it has been a medium I use to document the internal and external world we live in, focusing on themes of surrealism, mental health and mans journey through life. I now live in Stockholm, Sweden from where I work on my art.
He says that his work is very inspired by the Scandinavian landscapes around which he grew up. Surrealism, paintings and graphics designs also inspired him and are elements that he has always tried to incorporate into his art.
From a technical standpoint, Gabriel uses a minimal set of equipment. Just a Canon 5D Mark III and a 50mm f/1.4 lens. Most of his images are created solely using natural light, however, he does occasionally use a flash with a softbox.
My work is very reliant on outdoor locations and weather, it can take some time to find the perfect location and at the same time have the weather be the way I want it for the image, as I most of the time just work with ambient lightning. There are many times I have to work around weather conditions on location that might not be the way I wanted it to be as my art is very planned in advance in order to get the surreal and otherworldly look I apply to it.
It’s clear that Gabriel’s work takes a lot of time, effort and planning to achieve. Finding just the right location with the right weather and lighting conditions isn’t easy when you’re reliant on mother nature. But the results are definitely worth the patience.
Without even hearing Gabriel’s explanation, you can immediately see the sadness in Gabriel’s work. It’s a place that most of us will visit at some point in our lives. Perhaps we lose somebody. Maybe we lose ourselves. And we feel that things will never get better. That we are alone. But sometimes, if we’re lucky, we can find our way back.
I asked Gabriel what he hopes his work will say to those who view it.
I want my work to shine light on mental health and human experiences that we combat with in today’s society, but also to have spectator reflect on their own journey in life through my work.
Gabriel plans to keep exhibiting his work in galleries and museums, and to turn the images into a book in the near future.