Interview with Isa Gelb
I was born, raised and still live in Paris, France; where I work as a graphic designer / artistic director. I am also the founder/curator/designer 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. In March 2018, I was invited to join Diffuse Collective. It was a nice surprise because almost all the members shoot in black and white so I would not have imagined my work could be interesting to them.
I’ve learnt a little photography but I prefer to say that I’m a self taught photographer because I follow my instincts and my own rules.
I do use only analog because of the aesthetic of film which in my opinion adds another dimension to a photograph. I find it 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 times. 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.
I live in the close suburbs of Paris and I work in what is defined as the most beautiful city in the world, but this statement is overrated in my opinion. In the past, walking through the streets was an enjoyable photographic moment but for a couple of years now, Paris has no longer been attractive to me. Lately, most of my good images have been taken while traveling and just a few in my own neighborhood. However I still carry a camera everywhere I go because I always anticipate I can find a striking subject, something that catches my eye.
Anytime. 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. I also enjoy shooting at night, something I should do more often.
I have no favorite topics because everything is up for grabs in photography. One purpose of my work is to give credit to that sense of modesty I witness, rather than using “artistic” means to amplify it and change its nature. I pay attention to details, to things I find beautiful in their ugliness or to things that are naturally beautiful and attractive. My subjects have an ordinariness that I hope remains intact within my images. Most of them, if not all, are just unspectacular moments and things. They can be anything: cars, barricades, reflections on windows, curtains, dogs (I love them a lot), and from time to time, people.
That is because photography is the medium that allows me to express myself and create my own world, in a unique and quirky way. I don’t try or want to document anything in particular; I just take photos because it makes me feel alive and attentive to my surroundings.
Although I have my own personal likes and influences, I don’t have an aesthetic program. “I see, I snap, I move on” is my approach to photography.
My pictures are really just a collection of “mental souvenirs”; in my eyes they are not “memories” but they “make memories”. It’s that simple, they are like a diary and even though I seldom look at old pictures, I feel happy they exist because it means I exist too.