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Mystical Iceland - Alessandra Meniconzi

in Photography , Thursday, November 29, 2007

This review is very, very overdue, but maybe with Christmas coming up, it isn't so badly timed. I have written about Alessandra Meniconzi before, and reviewed her first book, The Silk Road. This, her second major publication, is also the fruit of several years of hard work (maybe not quite so hard, or quite so many, as for The Silk Road, but probably considerably wetter!). This time Alessandra turns her focus on Iceland, which is pretty much guaranteed to get my attention.

alex_island.jpg

"Mystisches Island", to give it its German title, is a collection of photographs spanning pretty much all of Iceland, both from the ground and the air, often battling against Iceland's worst weather, and indeed taking advantage of it.

Iceland is becoming a more and more popular subject for photographers, including a growing number of very talented native Icelanders. So what can another book bring to the market ? Well, in this case, a lot. Iceland is, often, spectacular, and any competent photographer should be able to bring home a few attention grabbing images. But that isn't what we have here. Somehow these photographs convey a strong sense of place, of fascination, and involvement. They don't feel like they were taken with an audience in mind, but more like from a strong, personal passion for the place, the people, and its stories. They are photographs that demanded to be made, publication or no publication. Although these photographs are principally landscapes, there is often a strong sense of narrative within them. I could not say if it is conscious or not, but a handful of the photos also seem to pay tribute to some of Iceland's leading photographers, including Sigurgeir Sigurjónsson and Ragnar Axelsson.

I guess in some ways this book appeals to me because I know a lot of these places, and have tried, not very successfully, to take some of these photographs myself. It is a bit weird when another photographer manages to take pretty much the same photo as me, only considerably better.

It is difficult to pick out a favourite from the book's 120 or so photos, but this one has a particular appeal to me...

alex-iceland-05.jpg

photo © Alessandra Meniconzi

..the space, the emptiness, the timelessness, the colour - and of course the sheep - these are all elements that make Iceland what it is.

And this leads me to my one criticism of the book: the title. To me, "Mystical Iceland" sounds a bit "new age", and undersells the book. Maybe "Elemental Iceland" would be more appropriate. That's what it feels like to me.

"Mystisches Iceland" is very highly recommended (could you guess?), and is published with German text by Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft, Hamburg, ISBN 978-3-7822-0951-9. I believe an English version is in planning, but I haven't seen it yet. Alessandra has also published a 2008 calendar featuring her Icelandic photography (ISBN-10: 3765446734, ISBN-13: 978-3765446733), but this too is unfortunately elusive.

Posted in category "Photography" on Thursday, November 29, 2007 at 07:08 PM

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