Life is complicated. Every day, we’re met with a tangled mess of personal responsibilities, professional duties, and interpersonal obligations. After a while, even solitude becomes stressful, since we’re constantly burdened by the idea that we’re never really allowed to stop moving.

Swedish-born photographer Gabriel Isak takes artful issue with that concept. His photographs speak to life’s complications in a way that’s shockingly (and stunningly) minimal. His work begs viewers to question the very nature of solitude and introspection.

What does it mean to be alone?

In our social-media driven age, it seems that the art of introspection has been lost. Everything we think, feel, and do is posted, liked, shared, and thrown out into the universe for everyone else’s consumption. Today, it’s almost frowned upon to keep part of yourself for…well…yourself. But Isak’s work reveals the complicated beauty that can be found in loneliness.

To Isak, the only way to confront your true self is to get used to the idea of isolation.

When asked about his work, he said, “My imagery entails surreal and melancholic scenes inspired by the inner world of dreams and psychology, where I invite the viewer to interact with the internal world of solitary figures that symbolize our own unconscious states.”

The photographer illustrates that point in a series called The Shadow and the Self.

He drew his inspiration for this collection from the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who once said, “Anyone who perceives his shadow and his light simultaneously sees himself from two sides.”

There’s one very important goal that Isak wants to achieve with his work.

“I want to use photography,” he says, “as a metaphor for experiences of the soul by creating photographs that are simple in form, but rich in ideas and emotions.”

Judging by these images, he’s already achieved that goal many times over.

He also seeks to highlight the important, puzzling nature of dreams when it comes to soul-searching.

It only makes sense that an artist fixated on the idea of introspection and inspired by human psychology would eventually turn to the study of dreams. Some of life’s most puzzling moments happen just after you wake up. Your mind has to do a lot of work when transitioning from dreamland back into real life.

Isak urges us to start being critical of our dreams and all of their faceless, nameless wonders.

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In a series called The Blue Journey, Isak recreates the confusing haze that clouds our minds when we try to articulate our dreams.

Isak’s method of capturing that frustration and confusion pays respect to the importance of dreams without stumbling into inarticulate territory. His images suggest that words are inadequate when it comes to fleshing out what our dreams really mean.

We’ve all felt the frustration that goes along with trying to explain a life-changing dream to someone and having it sound like a bunch of absurd, incoherent babble.

The more we try to talk about it, the faster it slips away.

While all of his collections bring something new to the table, one very important idea ties them together.

“The objective of my work is to reflect human experiences that will allow the spectator to reflect on their own journey.”

In a world where important expressions of self are boiled down to 140-character quips and pointless social media posts, it’s great to see someone getting back to the root of what it means to be human in a fast-paced world.

And there’s so much more where that came from. To see the rest of Gabriel Isak’s photographs and film projects, check out his website. You can also keep up with his latest work on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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