Photographer Gabriel Isak finds solace in the notion of art imitating life. For years, it has helped him cope with depression. Using surreal photography ideas and a minimalist palette, Isak depicts solitary figures who often exist among blue and gray grandiose landscapes. Their backs are to the camera—or their faces are otherwise obscured—to symbolize the struggles faced in unconscious states of mind. The photographs offer a blank canvas of sorts and allow us space to reflect on our own mental health.
Isak began photography over a decade ago, and it coincided with the first time he faced depression. “Photography allowed me to escape into a different world,” he says, “the one which I was creating, a place and a story that was lead by me, not that I was led by.” A few months later, however, Isak fell “deep into the arms of depression” and his passion for the medium waned. By 2014, Isak found himself on the other side of mental illness and was pursuing photography again. It’s then that he began to unconsciously explore his past experiences with depression.
“Everything I created reflected on the years I was living with depression, inspired by psychology, surrealism, and the Scandinavian landscapes that I grew up around,” Isak explains. Documenting our internal worlds has been a form of therapy for him as he confronts and combats his emotions and experiences over the past several years. He hopes that viewers will also find solace as they place themselves in his imaginary places.
Aside from personal fulfillment, Isak intends for his surreal images to continue the greater conversation on mental health. “I want my work to shine [a] light on mental health and the darker and lonelier side of the world that we otherwise never talk about.”