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Meet Gisele Lubsen of GAL Photography in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gisele Lubsen.

Gisele, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I became a conceptual underwater photographer while I was doing my MFA at Otis School of Art & Design in Los Angeles in the Spring of 2006. For the final MFA show I invited 8 of my girlfriends to come and take the plunge in a swimming pool with me, wearing their day to day outfits. I had rented an old school but fabulous camera named Nikonos and thought it would be so great to celebrate the female form, the goddess in every woman, taking shape underwater. Truthfully, I had no idea what I was doing, but the portraits of these eight women turned out incredible. They were exhibited one next to the other on a long wall in the schools’ gallery and looked surreal and whimsical. One could not immediately detect if these were underwater portraits or actual painted portraits but when up close a bubble in a nose or ear and pale skin revealed that they were from the nature’s element of water. These women showed such strength in overcoming their own nature.

Overcoming not being able to breathe and pushing themselves into a calm and limitless state made making them gloriously victorious. I had witnessed underwater their strength and bravery as if they had let go of their weaknesses and insecurities. I called the series Undercover Goddesses and that’s truly what these women were. It was that day that I found my calling and I started specializing full time in conceptual underwater photography. Even though everyone said I was crazy and that this niche would never work, thirteen years later after countless underwater photoshoots and traveling around the world for many underwater productions and exhibitions I can tell you that I love it more then ever. It has allowed me to meet countless of interesting people, connect with them on an empowering level since water is truly transformational. Whether I’m on a fine art production or doing a branding or a couples shoot everyone feels exhilarated underwater and empowered which is so rewarding. In 2008 I founded my current company named GAL Photography based in Santa Monica and I’ve got a wonderful team of lighting technicians, stylists, makeup artists and assistants. We pretty much do photoshoots in any pool or in any clear water.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I think some of the struggles have made it so that today I feel even more confident about pursuing this wonderful niche. Many people didn’t believe there would be a big enough market for it but since the beginning, I can honestly say that this is not true at all. People are drawn to water to feel good because everything in water is beautiful and timeless. The images are surreal and different and most importantly people love experiencing an underwater photoshoot with my team and I. We have lots of fun and push through certain boundaries we never thought possible.

Please tell us more about your work. What do you do? What do you specialize in? What sets you apart from competition?
GAL Photography specializes in personalized underwater photoshoots and productions with an emphasis on fine art portraits/compositions and branding projects. We pretty much welcome anyone who wants to have a powerful underwater experience and beautiful timeless and unique images for themselves or for their brand. My team and I consist of developing the concept for the shoot, the styling aspect, makeup, lighting and all the production aspects that go into a shoot. We mainly shoot in swimming pools and any clear water available. GAL Photography also sells custom limited edition underwater fine art pieces created during productions. One can buy them online or in the galleries which represent me. Besides from photography we also create underwater video’s.

All the photography and film footage is, entirely shot underwater which simultaneously creates a unique photographic studio and a spiritual transformational experience. The final images conjure the intense, provoking imagery of Caravaggio’s paintings, but captured in live motion, with living, vibrant people. Much of my work focuses on Ancient Greek Mythology and uses these archetypes to create beautiful narratives about human relationships.

What were you like growing up?
I was always traveling with my camera and spend most of my time in high school in the darkroom developing photographs. My mother is an archeologist and she always took me to Greece and Cyprus where she was excavating. She specializes in Greek fertility goddesses so that always inspired me a lot in my work. Later, when I studied art history in Paris for my undergraduate degree the lighting in the paintings of Caravaggio fascinated me and till this day, I use this in my art. Hence why many of my collectors say the work looks like paintings. I love people and human connections so I would say I was always an extrovert. At the same time, I think all photographers and artists are loners too so I always related to that as well.

From the age of 12, when I received my first camera I always knew I would want to be a photographer. Even though I am from The Netherlands, I grew up many months out of the year on the Cycladic Island of Paros in Greece and thats where my love for being underwater started from a very young age. Underwater I feel most comfortable so it only made sense to express my art within this aquatic medium.

Contact Info:

  • Address: Santa Monica
  • Website: www.giselelubsen.com
  • Phone: 310 383 1434
  • Email: giselelubsen@gmail.com
  • Instagram: galunderwaterphotography
  • Facebook: galphotographyunderwater

Image Credit:
Copyright GAL Photography / Gisele A. Lubsen 2019

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