Isbella Ståhl (b.1984) is a photographer of Swedish origin currently living in Paris. Her photography is rustic, atmospheric and tender with minute observations and an eye for visualizing narrative elements. She has been taking pictures in a wide variety as evident from images featured in this post and most of them are quiet reflections on life, people, and world – she’s a storyteller photographer.
Extensively published in numerous online and print magazines, and exhibited in scores of galleries, Isabella’s continuing to shoot for her personal projects and editorial commissions. Here’s our Q&A with her:
My name is Isabella Ståhl and I’m a photographer and an artist. I grew up in the north of Sweden and moved to Stockholm at 15. I currently live in Paris where I work as a freelance photographer. On the side of that I shoot a lot on my own and work on different art projects.
I started shooting when I was about 15. I’ve always felt fascinated by photography. I remember reading a lot of photo books when I was younger and I liked the way photographs could change my mood. I studied photography in high school and got introduced to a lot of great photographers. I had a break after that but a few years later decided that I wanted to go back to shooting so I applied for photo schools. Besides photography I like film a lot and in the future I hope to make a short film that goes in style with my photographs.
I like to be versatile and shoot a variety of work with different methods. I love experimenting. I don’t have a specific camera that I always rely on; sometimes I shoot film, sometimes digital. I like taking pictures of things that I feel close to, people, landscapes and animals.
I have mainly been working in a spontaneous way. I like driving around in my car and just stumble on things that I find interesting. Sometimes I know a specific place or a person that I would like to photograph and that takes a little more planning.
When I was a kid I was obsessed with children books with really strange fiction and I remember dreaming away a lot. I guess it was a way for me to escape. I loved the stories about Narnia and I kept hoping to find that hidden door. I think this has really influenced my way of shooting. I like to create a world that is beyond reality - something I can look at and be like, hey that’s not so bad, maybe the world isn’t such a cruel place after all. I still enjoy reading children books at time to time because it inspires me. One of my favorite children books is ’Who Will Comfort Toffle’ by Tove Jansson. It has this magical feeling over it and it’s a beautiful story.
I have nothing against digital manipulation as long as it’s done in a reliable way and adds something to the photographs. I currently use a Canon 5 and an Olympus mju II for my analogue work and a Canon Mark II for my digital work.
I love horses so I’m very found of my horse photographs. My latest project Fading Haze is about the past and the longing for someone or something. It’s about lost dreams and the search for a perfect life, and the realization that life will never be like that.
I have nothing against the use of mobile cameras although the quality for the photos wouldn’t be enough for my work to print. I think it’s great with platforms like Instagram and blogs for sharing your work, and also a way to discover new talents and connect with people through your art. One thing that is both an advantage but also a bit scaring is that you get judged immediately, and based on the response you know if people like it or not. It’s easy to post pictures that you know people will appreciate. I’m trying to still keep the core of my work and not take it too personal but it can be quite stressful. Art galleries are great but it’s a bit sad that you have to already “be someone” to get your work out there and be able to sell.
I would love to make a photo book of my work so I’m looking for possibilities to do that. I’m currently exhibiting my work from my series “Left Behind” at the Fotografiska Museum in Stockholm. I also have a group show coming up at Menier Gallery in London in January through Life Framer, which I’m really excited about.
I’m currently working on a project that I started a few years ago and I hope to get it together very soon. I promise to talk about it more when I have it together. I’m also looking for places to travel and shoot and I’m thinking of new ideas and directions for my work.
I like movies about youth and growing up. Blue is the warmest color is a great one. For music I’m currently listening to mostly house and electro. There are a lot of great photographers of course and I always have a hard time to pick just a few, but if I have to I like the work of Todd Hido, J H Engström, Anders Petersen and Joel Meyerowitz. For quotes I like anything by Charles Bukowski.
Say something to our readers or aspiring photographers:
Just go shoot. Grab your camera and see where the road takes you, there are so much out there to discover.
Note: All images used with permission. Please do not copy or distribute without the approval of the photographer.