Gabriela Everett is an artist and photographer based out of Chicago, Illinois.
Her photographs often appear to capture moments taking place in their own universe. The images are striking as they frequently juxtapose bright colors with morbid themes or dark subject matter.
As a veteran artist, her images are at once both impressive and striking, even more so when you realize she still considers herself a novice photographer.
In our conversation, she discusses how she uses color as a source of inspiration, why nothing is off limits and the benefit of creating dangerously.
Gabriela was kind enough to participate in the following interview:
How long have you been a photographer? I use term photographer loosely in correlation to myself, I have no formal training and no equipment (yet) outside of my iPhone 6s.
Maybe a year?
I could say I developed an interest in photography when I was eight, but never seriously considered pursuing photography until this year.
My parents bought me a little digital camera around 2005 for a school project and all I wanted to do was take pictures of the flowers outside gas stations.
I was so embarrassed at my lack of skill that I shut the camera away in a drawer and left the batteries to die.
I still have it, I think. In a shoebox. I have no idea what’s on it.
Everything I photograph now is purely out of my desire to understand it capture its beauty. Reality is boring when consumed through recycled perspectives. I want to hold on to unique things that remove me from this world.
What kind of gear do you use? Ah yes, the dreaded question of gear. I wish I could say I knew all about cameras, wish I could say I had a collection of cameras, some four-thousand-dollar dream.
I have my iPhone 6s, and if I’m trying to go refraction photography; I use some cheap glasses I got from Amazon, and hold them over the lens. It fuzzes out the clarity of most images.
I’m experimenting with utilizing that aspect to my advantage. Retro aesthetics are on the rise. Because people can take such quality photos with the right gear, the choice of having lower quality photos or stylizing them to look like old VHS tapes, polaroids, all hint at where the future may go.
One day there may be teenagers itching to get their hands on some iPhone 4. We all become old school. The most we can hope is that our work will age well. For now, it’s just me and my cell phone. Maybe that will be the new retro one day.
How did you discover photography? I discovered both photography and my current method of taking pictures through an obsession with color.
At some point in college, I began to notice colors everywhere, even in the buildings everyone claimed were gray or black—I saw them as blue or burgundy. Maybe it was some lingering effect of some drug in my system. I didn’t understand how people only saw things so plain.
Color is my main love and my biggest influence when it comes to photos. Things are so much brighter with a second glance––or in some cases––a second shot after toying with some settings.
The addition of cameras to cell phones revolutionized who could take pictures and enabled people to do it just about anywhere. I began to take photography more seriously. I have a colleague who’s teaching me the ins and outs of basic equipment and am hoping to earn enough money from my traditional art to buy myself a camera next year.
I’m starting to look into the technicalities of photography because I desire to communicate what I feel. I want to share these things with people because they make me happy. Not a lot does that anymore.
“To take pictures is to capture history and moments worth existing for. That’s what photography means to me: proof of something worth existing for.” – Gabriela Everett
How would you describe your style? Surreal, maybe. I mess with colors a lot and try to make things feel like they’re from another reality, is there a name for that? I think everything should look and feel like it’s from a movie. Maybe my style is just curious. Occasionally: morbid.
What does photography mean to you? Photography is communication for something I could never convey with words.
I can’t take someone back to an exact moment in time so this is the next best thing. For me, it means to share something of beauty with people. I’m bad with emotions.
It’s hard to explain mixed feelings when you see a skinny cat eating a dead bird, or see someone getting married in the park during a downpour. I can’t construct entire cities just to walk people through and say, “Look at that building, isn’t it mesmerizing?”
To take pictures is to capture history and moments worth existing for. That’s what photography means to me: proof of something worth existing for. It would be a shame to throw away our chance to see such gems. Even the ones that first appear as coal.
I see something I love and fear its absence. I want to own that moment.
I want it in my wallet on Instax film; I want it as my lock screen so I can remind myself what dedication and the honed eye can find. Like “I Spy”.
Everything is overwhelming.
I’ll see a flock of pigeons in some alley in Chicago and want to run into them with my phone, hoping I can get some pictures of them flying up to the fire escapes.
I will never see my sister at age twelve again, don’t I want to remember her as someone who has yet to be exhausted by this world?
I reach for my camera when I want to preserve something. There are not enough museums to contain this time’s wonders. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
Is there any subject matter that you off limits to you? If so, why? Nothing is off limits. I had a friend who showed me the work of photographer Arthur Fellig, aka “Weegee”.
He told me that to get his shots, most of which consist of violent deaths or strange reworking of faces to evoke dread, he installed a police radio and taught himself police codes in order to find his content to shoot.
Life is full of messy, sad things. Bad things. There is something to be learned from them, though.
Even if they just end up in some locker as court evidence. Everything becomes far prettier when you train yourself to dissect your fears. What can you find in them that makes you feel alive?
What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos? How to properly use equipment. I wish I’d done more research on how to get cleaner shots, or simply how to work with what I’ve got.
I’m learning now though. Better late than never. Overall I wish I’d known how much work goes into amazing photos. The dedication and discipline moves me.
What is one question nobody has ever asked you—that you wish they asked you? “Do you really mean that?” I think people are afraid to know what I’ll respond.
My brain says weird things and I always wonder if people believe what I say. I wonder if they believe in me at all. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t want to verify.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? “Create dangerously.” I was thumbing through a book, pretty defeated about where I was going in life. I didn’t know what I was trying to do.
In Albert Camus’s Resistance, Rebellion, and Death: Essays, one of the last chapters is titled “Create Dangerously”.
It’s about what art should strive to be and about pushing the boundaries of it. The phrase alone changed who I am. It inspires me. (A side note: his essay on the guillotine is fascinating as well.)
You can view more of Gabrielas art on her Instagram.