Punk Royal Tiger is the handle of none other than Isa Gelb, a graphic designer and photographer based in Paris, France. She is also the curator and publisher of the quarterly photo magazine, Underdogs.
A film photographer at heart, Isa shoots with a Contax G2, an Olympus mju ii and several analog Nikon cameras. The limited number of exposures given with film spurs a more deliberate sense for composition, allowing Isa to document her day with an uncanny sense of romanticism, much like in her photograph of a skull sitting in the back of a car, or a man and his toy collection of the Eiffel Tower.
Shooting film is thrilling and I find it more challenging. I enjoy the slow process that divides photography into different parts: time for shooting, time for editing and at the end, time for printing.
With a damn good eye for composition and color Isa concocts a sense of visual poetry. You know, the sort of visual poetry that only street scenes can proclaim to us romantics. Yet in her series Prix du Qatar, we find a different view to Isa’s striking compositions. For one, they contain people rather than objects.
Many people will pose or make a fake smile if you approach them from the front, which is one reason why I like to photograph my subjects from behind.
At the races, everyone is focused on the carousel of horses running round the track, or fixated on the rush of placing bets. “It gives me plenty of time to walk behind and capture some brief moments in the most anonymous way,” she says. “I also like the idea that keeping someone anonymous can reveal other deeper things. A tender moment, a sense of shyness, of tiredness or maybe even boredom.”
While these faceless and completely intimate portraits offer more questions than answers, Isa believes people’s backs can reveal just as much as faces, and I’m starting to believe there is truth to this.