Therapy and escapism: Gabriel Lopez on the healing power of photography

Before long into their photography practice, Gabriel realised that it held greater power than just capturing a moment in time. “I am diagnosed with depression and have had a history of enduring child abuse,” Gabriel shares, stating that “photography has been my form of escapism and therapy”. Growing up, Gabriel also says he didn’t have many close friends or people to open up to, and so instead, he opens up to those he photographs. “In a way, the people I have met throughout my art have taught me so much about the world and being a human.”
It’s Gabriel’s self-portraiture that has provided a powerful route to navigate such personal experiences. “It began as a way to cope with my body dysmorphia,” Gabriel explains. “I used to be very overweight when I was young. I didn’t necessarily feel normal or beautiful. My mother picked on me a lot because of how my body looked. She and society have influenced how I see myself.” Out of these feelings came one of the projects Gabriel treasures most, his first conceptual series made in high school, Take me away from me. Exploring their feelings of “self hatred” one image shows Gabriel contorted into a closet, a harsh red light enveloping the scene. Inducing feelings of discomfort and pain, the photo has a deeply melancholic tone; a powerful creation for someone only aged 16. Concluding their thoughts, Gabriel says that self-portraiture hasn’t taught him how to “love” his body, but it has taught him how to “accept it”. “Putting my body in front of the camera puts myself on the same pedestal I put the rest of my subjects on. If I want them to feel seen, I should too.”
To create such impressive work, Gabriel goes through a thorough process of self-interrogation. After taking an image they will ask themselves a whole host of questions; “how have you challenged yourself to compose this image?”, “how do you think this image is going to make someone feel?”, “do you leave room for interpretation?”, among many others. Clearly, for Gabriel, self-reflection is a key. Another central focus for the photographer is achieving a “balance” of light. “It’s kind of like Goldilocks tasting each bowl of porridge. After each bowl she ends up liking one that’s just right.”

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