Among the hallmarks of a good photograph is a strong narrative and the ability to make the viewer feel. Among the striking bodies of work we’ve seen that effectively do this is Stefano Gardel’s moody series titled Dystopia. There are no special effects, no tricks, and no staged scenes in his photos, but the execution shows a strong and persuasive idea.
The word “dystopia” has become associated mostly with stories of miserable and degraded cities portrayed in the movies. But photography is just as capable and powerful in painting a picture of such a grim scenario or subject matter. It often relies on the power of mood.
We’ve previously seen Swiss fine art photographer Stefano Gardel do this with his take on street photography at night: the mysterious portrayal of the streets of London enveloped by a pervading darkness. In his Dystopia set, the mood is just as dark, grim, and heavy. We can see his technique of using a dark, mostly monochrome color palette and a minimalist approach to composition are instrumental in putting together his dystopian tale.
What I like and think is most effective about this particular series is how it’s complete with all the elements of a strong narrative. For the setting, he chose strategic locations around London to create an impression of the city in a far and bleak future. There’s the premise, which is hinted at by the title itself. The characters interact with the setting and carry out the plot, seemingly navigating the dreary city with a dismal demeanor. All of these elements come together through Stefano’s techniques and his ability to craft an effective mood.