San Francisco-via-Sweden photographer Gabriel Isak is a master of subtlety, blending seemingly simplistic work with nuance that hints at much heavier themes and messages behind it. Isak is very inspired by the inner workings of the mind, dreams, and psychology, and he “invites the viewer to interact with the internal world of solitary figures that symbolize our own unconscious states.” The end result of his work is akin to an iceberg: the image immediately presented is a simple, effective, and gorgeous indicator of the behemoth and complicated structure that it belies. Simply put, there’s a lot going on beneath the surface sheen of Isak’s photos.
Although this is a theme in all of Isak’s work, the two series that most deeply represent this approach are The Long Blue Journey and A Forest Tale. The former explores its subjects with endless sea and sky as a backdrop, with photos ranging from simple (a man stares through the ocean fog toward a boat) to the surreal (a headless figure “faces” the camera through a second frame, with a disintegrating black bird hovering above his collar). Each collection is striking, poignant, and deeply emotional despite the serene calm of their settings.