ISA GELB – PHOTOGRAPHER-
– Analog only –
Isa please, briefly introduce you to the readers.
I’m a graphic designer and an « amateur » analog photographer based in Paris (France).
I’m also the founder/curator/publisher of Underdogs, a contemporary photography magazine, and the co-founder and member of White Light Collective, an international collective of seven photographers from seven different countries with a shared interest to connect and work in a collaborative nature with one another.
I love tigers, horses, dogs and animals in general much more then human beings to be honest.
What about your first approach to photography?
Years ago, I was hanging out with friends who were musicians, and it bothered me that I was doing nothing while they were jamming together.
Taking pictures of them playing came to mind. Once I started, I found I enjoyed the medium and sensuality of the camera itself, beyond the subjects of my pictures that honestly were very bad and then decided to learn more about photography. But after that and for a long time I had to give up photography for personal reasons.
My old analog camera was put aside in a closet and I had even forgotten about them. In 2011, I opened up an Instagram account where I posted bad iPhone pics converted into BW to make them look better (cheater!). But it was not that fun so little by little it came to my mind that it would be great to bring my analog camera out again and try to shot a roll. It was such an amazing feeling that since then I stuck with it and bought a bunch of new ones.
Because I’m bad at everything else. I’m not sure I’m good at photography either but at least something comes out of the camera and from time to time it’s working. I’m very critical of myself and I usually don’t like much my photos except a very few that I’m proud of.
But I really enjoy holding a camera. Especially analog cameras. They inspire confidence and simply feel right in the hands. To me they’re the right tools to get the results I’m looking for.
Analog. Technical characteristics and sensations.
Analog better suits me for many reasons.
The first one is the color rendering of film. I like, aesthetically, the grain that you get. It is much more pleasing, natural and smoother than digital cameras. Film grain and film aesthetics add another dimension to a photo that in my opinion makes it more interesting and charming. Sometimes you will have a picture that comes out slightly out of focus or with light leaks, and even though it’s not what you expected, you end up loving it.
But the main reason I really love film is the limited number of exposures available on a roll. It obliges me to be more selective and shoot less but better. When it’s time to check out the scans, I am not scrolling through tons of images that completely lack of interest. Don’t take me wrong, I’m not saying that with film I take only good pictures; I get many bad ones—that no one will ever see—but I feel I’m wiser in the choice of my subjects. Film gives the user a chance to slow down and be decisive. Being liberated of the instant gratification on the screen allows me to follow my instinct and better enjoy the moment.
Another thing I also enjoy is that by the time I get back my films developed from the lab, I often have forgotten about some photos I have taken. It makes super exciting the moment of discovering what’s on the roll. I also find interesting that you will get results that look very different from what you have seen in reality, by using different films and cameras under different weather and exposure time.
What are the photographic stories you love the most?
Personal stories? I don’t have any interesting that come to my mind.
Others photographers’ stories?
I like photographer Mary Ellen Mark’s and nine years old girl named Amanda Marie Ellison story. Poignant.
And again Mary Ellen Mark following the path of Erin Blackwell for thirty years after she photographed her when she was 14 is also a touching story.
I’m very very impressed by Mary Ellen and the way she was taking photographs of these lost wild marginalized kids in the most respectful but raw way.
Brilliant. Hats off.
What is the place, the most inspiring for your art?
Where I feel inspired for taking pictures? Anywhere there’s something that catches my attention. It can be a car (I love cars pictures), a curtain, a tree, a building….
Lately I feel more comfortable out of my hometown Paris and the close surbubs I live in.
These big city have no longer been attractive to me. Probably because I’m not a street photographer in the noble sense of the term, you know catching the essence of life, of people.
I better enjoy to give life to inanimate objects. And wherever it’s possible to, I press the button.
If I weren’t so lazy, I would wake up before the sun reaches the horizon, when the sky is lit but the sun is not yet visible.
The light at this hour is special.
But since I rarely wake up that early, I tend to use any available light during the day.
The only light I can’t stand is that of dull gray days when the sky is flat and without relief.
Lately I enjoyed using a combination of flash and natural light.
What are the artists of the past who have most influenced your artistic vision?
I wouldn’t say from the past because many of them are still producing photographs.
Among Masters of photography, I’d say my favorites are William Eggleston, what is not a surprise for anyone, Stephen Shore, Luigi Ghirri, NobuyoshiAraki and Lars Tunbjörk .
The list could go on and on.
Nan Goldin has also a special place in my heart. I’ve always been impressed by the harsh beauty and raw vision of her subjects.
But my top 5 is changing fairly often. Only Eggleston remains at the first place.
I’m not sure they all influenced my vision but I learnt from all.
What are the contemporary artists you admire?
There are many!
All photographers I’ve been featuring in Underdogs, 133 so far, have been inspiration to me. I really love them all.
To name a few others, I am a big fan of Albert Elm since I discovered his raw work in the British Journal of Photography.
And I really dig Stefanie Moshammer’s work that I recently stumbled across on Tumblr. She has a eye-catching serie called « Vegas and She » among others.
Feng Li’s eccentric work is absolutely worth checking out too.
And last but not least I’m a fan of all photographers of Berlin collective Zimmer 177.
“Underdogs” mag, please describe the artistic project.
Underdogs is a magazine about contemporary photography.
At the beginning, it was a selfish project. I simply wanted to give myself the opportunity to flip through a magazine in which I enjoyed every image. I had viewed tons of online photography magazines over a period of years. I experienced a frustrating dissonance of personal “likes” and “dislikes” about each one. And this frustration spurred me to produce my own magazine, as a place where I could feature those photographers whom I personally appreciate and admire.
One of the defining features of Underdogs is its emphasis on the photographs themselves and the minimization of textual commentary.
I chose this direction because I have always believed photographs should be able to stand on their own. Explanations given by the photographer can limit the viewer’s imagination and personal interpretation of the photograph.
More simply, some people, including me, are just bewildered about what to say about themselves and/or their work. With that in mind, I give contributors to Underdogs the choice to write about themselves and their work, or to leave their images as is.
My other goal, less selfish, was also to offer exposure to photographers who never or seldom answer “calls for submissions,” and that’s the reason publication in Underdogs is by invitation only.
I do not intend to be exclusive for the sake of being exclusive. While a formal submissions process might theoretically provide me with more excellent photography, the truth is that reviewing open submissions would drain my time from preparing and presenting the work I already desire to publish. However, from time to time I receive self-submitted portfolios that I ultimately invite into the magazine.
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Un post condiviso da Isa Gelb (@punkroyaltiger) in data:
Do you have an “artistic obsession”?
Not at all. In the past I would have answered “shooting David Bowie” but even if he was still alive, it’s not something I’d be comfortable to do.
What are your next projects?
Making projects is not my thing. I live from day to day and rarely plan ahead.I can’t handle working on series or other long-term projects.
I get bored very quickly.
I’ve been thinking about making a book or a sine, but my laziness is stronger than my will to start working on it. Also, I feel more comfortable making relevant associations with the work of other photographers than with mine.
But one day… who knows.
Isa, what is PHOTOGRAPHY for you?
To me photography is a serious thing that I don’t take seriously.
I mean I don’t seek perfection, I don’t want to reach it, quite the opposite, I don’t care my pictures look well composed and flawless as long as they look honest.
Photography is just looking through a little rectangle/square called viewfinder, pushing the shutter and showing the world like you want it to be. It’s sharing your own perspective with others.
Is photography art? Yes. Do I make art? No, it’s not my intention.
Where can we follow your art?
On Tumblr, Flickr and Instagram.