Photographer Poetically Captures Living With Depression

Swedish photographer Gabriel Isak turned a bleak period of his life into a compelling series of images called The Blue Journey. Stemming from a bout with depression, Gabriel uses minimalist themes and dark symbolism in this series to document the internal and external world we live in.


Inspiration for the images arose from his observations of negative emotions and isolation. In The Blue Journey, he photographs anonymous figures in expansive landscapes that allow his audience to envision themselves as the subject—alone in this quiet blue world. Gabriel’s work has captivated audiences, and he has exhibited this series twice in San Francisco.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey into photography?

I began to explore photography at a young age and picked it up again in the middle of 2014. From there on it has slowly evolved into a medium that I use to document the internal and external world we live in.

What are some of your interests?

Besides photography—which now is more work and a passion than an interest—I enjoy being outside in the nature, traveling, spending time alone as well as with loved ones, and I am always down to see a new movie or exhibit.

Where do you call home?

I would call Sweden my home. Although I have lived in San Francisco for the past five to six years, I have never felt completely home here.

The dreamlike quality The Blue Journey takes your audience through an inner journey of reflection, what inspired the series?

The series came to be just when I got into photography again, after having faced depression for about seven years. My subconscious mind inspired most of the images in the series as they all feel like small memories of what I went through during my depression. Midway through the series I also got inspired by the painter Magritte, as well as surrealistic era.

The series embodies qualities of minimalism and solitude, why is being alone important to you?

This series and a lot of my work emphasize a lot on the meaning of solitude, partly because I once went through depression and experienced what it was like to live under dark clouds, alone, for many years. Solitude can of course be a negative experience for some people, and it was for me for a long while, but I believe it is more of a lesson than anything else in life. If one can manage to live a solitary life, be content and not in need of a person to fill up the empty parts in life, then once has managed to learn one of life’s most important lessons.

How did you choose your models?

In this series hair played a big role in choosing the models. As I play with blonde, brown, red hair. I visualized how the model would be portrayed graphically in the image before taking it and chose the models using that route.

From conceptualizing to post processes, how much planning went into each shoot?

Taking the images in this series took barely any time compared to the pre-production and post processing. All of my work is always planned in advance. I start out by asking myself what story I want to create. From there I begin to brainstorm words before I sketch out how I visualize the final image. This state is where I dig up a lot from my unconscious mind. After the concept was visualized for each image I decided the location, props and finally the model. Once on location, I explain the story we will be portraying to the model with the help of my reference images and my sketches.

How did you light your photos? Do you use artificial or natural light?

All of the photos were taken under natural light. I did all my shooting under foggy, overcast conditions, or in those few magic minutes before the sun would set.

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