Surreal Conceptual Photography of Gabriel Isak

We published a lot of conceptual photography features in PhotoArtMag in the beginning and most of the submissions we received were from conceptual portrait photographers of very young age. Later our focus shifted more to street, urban landscape, and documentary photography due to the lack of originality and clichés in conceptual works. After a very long time we are back with fascinating surreal conceptual photography of Swedish photographer Gabriel Isak. His photography is an abstraction of human emotions by way of using various symbols and metaphors. Of course, the interpretation of his work is purely subjective and images can be viewed and explained at varied angles and perspectives. More from Gabriel Isak in our interview below:

2 Gabriel Isak photography After_LifePlease tell us about yourself and your relationship with photography:

I am Gabriel Isak and live in San Francisco where I am pursuing my career as a photographer. I began taking pictures a few years ago, and it has slowly evolved into a medium that I use to document the internal and external world we live in, without it I have no voice to express myself with.

3 Gabriel Isak photography Discovery_at_DawnWhat does photography mean to you and how do you view your evolution as a photographer?

I use photography as a metaphor for experiences of the soul. My main goal with my work is to create images that reflect human experiences and which in turn will allow the spectator to reflect on their own journey. Ever since I began taking pictures I have been inspired by surrealism and the inner world of dreams and psychology and try to incorporate that as much as I can into my work. I have discovered a lot about myself and the unconscious mind as I have evolved as a photographer and continue to explore new journeys as I go on.

4 Gabriel Isak photography Illumination_in_the_DarkWhat is there in conceptual photography that many young photographer get attracted to it? Where does originality lie in conceptual photography? How difficult is it for you to conceive a novel idea and execute it well?

I believe that conceptual photography gives young photographers many opportunities to create their vision in images as there are so many possibilities and approaches to create a conceptual photograph. I believe that one should always try to show a personal voice in conceptual photography as there are so many out there. Therefore it is vital to have a unique approach to it and stand out from the rest. Do what you feel and avoid whatever everyone else is doing.

5 Gabriel Isak photography MelancholiaTell us about your methods or critical approaches of shooting? How much of your work is carefully planned vs. spontaneous?

I always start out with asking myself what story I want to create. From there I begin to brainstorm with words before I sketch out how I visualize the final image. Sometimes research is involved as well before I begin with the brainstorming, depending on what I am creating. If it is going to be a composite, I write down the order in which I will photograph the different images that later will be combined in post. I then decide for the location and plan it out according to the weather. Once on location, I explain the story I am trying to capture to my model with the help of reference images and my sketches. In the end, I bring the images together in post-processing (again if it is a composite) and then work on the light and color adjustments.

6 Gabriel Isak photography Peace_of_MindDo you believe you’ve found your style or signature? 

I would say that I have found one of many styles that I have to work on. My work for the past year is in a style which is quite melancholic, surreal and serene. Now I am at the point where I am working on developing a new style and experimenting with new objects and techniques, as I believe that an artist should always continue to challenge oneself to go beyond the comfort zone and not repeat oneself. I also don’t want to label myself with any specific style because I’m at a very early stage in my career and have a long way to go.

7 Gabriel Isak photography The_White_StormTell us about the equipment (camera, lenses, software, etc.) you mostly use:

I use a Canon 5DIII, a 50mm 1.4 lens, a 3 Legged Thing called tripod and a self-timer.

Do you have a favorite photo or a project having a great story behind?

The project that stands closest to my heart is “The Shadow and the Self” that I did recently. It’s a project that was very personal to me at that time. It’s also the one that became personal to others and very appreciated.

8 Gabriel Isak photography Let_GoWhat are your future plans/projects, ambitions, inspirations etc.?

My first goal is to showcase my work in galleries and to continue to produce larger and more diverse body of works. I want to continue to experiment with different mediums and get into the world of films as well. As of now, this is my biggest focus and to complete my Bachelor’s degree in Photography by the end of next year. From there on we’ll see, and I am very excited to what life will bring to me.

9 Gabriel Isak photography Sailing_AwayPlease tell us about your favorite stuff: photographers, quotes, films books, music etc.:

My favorite quote at the moment:

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes but don’t quit.” – Conrad Hilton

My playlist changes each week, but this week it has been a lot of Sigur Ros, Ludovico Einaudi, Grimes, Lykke Li, Symmetry and Troye Sivan.

10 Gabriel Isak photography The_BattleI also find a lot of inspiration from dreams, the psychological world, cinema, paintings, the surrealists and my roots in Sweden.

Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers:

I would give the same advice I always try to give myself on a daily bases and that is: “Follow your heart and your inner voice in your life and career path.” It’s a simple saying, but at the same time is what has brought me to the place I am at today and I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

11 Gabriel Isak photography In_a_Dream 12 Gabriel Isak photography The_Shadow_and_The_Self_02 13 Gabriel Isak photography The_Shadow_and_The_Self_03 14 Gabriel Isak photography The_Red_Line 15 Gabriel Isak photography Two_Fictions_HR 16 Gabriel Isak photography Day and Night_HR 17 Gabriel Isak photography Life_HR 18 Gabriel Isak photography Leaving_EarthGabriel Isak : Website | Facebook | Instagram | Flickr | Behance

Note: All images used with permission. Please do not copy or distribute without the approval of the photographer.



Editor at PhotoArtMag
Nishant studied art history, philosophy and literature at University. He's passionate about arts, WordPress, and Zen. He works as a translator in New Delhi.
Nishant is also the founder of Hindizen, one of the most admired Hindi blogs of its kind on the Internet. It is about reflecting on simple wisdom and learning new ways to apply it to our complex lives.