“The North begins and ends with Iceland” - Marco Paoluzzo
There are a lot of photography books on Iceland and Icelandic landscapes in particular. They’re split, pretty much, into several categories: books by Icelandic photographers that are never seen outside of Iceland, but are ubiquitous in their homeland. “Lost in Iceland” by Sigurgeir Sigurjonsson is a good example. Then we have books by foreign photographers, which are never seen in Iceland, but in some cases are quite ubiquitous outside of the country. Interestingly black & white Icelandic landscape photography books, are, as far as I know, a uniquely foreign category.
And then we have Iceland Landscapes by Daníel Bergmann.
Daníel is without a shadow of a doubt Icelandic, but thanks to time he spent outside of the country, he’s had something of the experience of discovering Iceland as a foreigner, and this gives him something of a mixed perspective. He is able to see the country at a remove, while at the same time knowing it extremely well, with the result that he’s able to bring something new to a rather over-crowded field.
Iceland Landscapes is, I think, his 5th published book, but it is the first that really focuses on the landscape. It’s beautifully printed and presented, and includes a foreword by British photographer David Ward. This is very appropriate, because Daníel’s approach is well in tune with Ward’s “Landscape Within” ethos, as well as his discrete but strong spiritual undertone.
One thing that stands out for me is his response to and treatment of light. He prefers the subtle approach, and often goes for quite muted light, and avoids the sometimes ghastly “Velvia tones” so characteristic of a sector of the landscape community, as well as the heavy-handed contrast treatments so beloved by the Flickr crowd.
In general he tends to avoid the more over-photographed locations in Iceland. In particular I’m think of the coastal area to the west of Vik, which has really been done to death - although he has included a couple of beautiful scenes from there. But the most successful shots tend to be from well off the beaten track, perhaps not so much because they’re unknown, but perhaps more because they communicate a stronger connection to the land.
There are many outstanding photos, but here’s a small selection of my current favourites (which I hope doesn’t break “Fair Use” copyright rules!).
“Iceland Landscapes” is at completely the other end the spectrum to “Terra Borealis” by Marco Paoluzzo, which I reviewed last week. But they’ve one special thing in common: they avoid the hard sell, the dramatic-but-cheap shot, but instead slowly draw you in to the worlds they create.
I think it’s obvious that I highly recommend “Iceland Landscapes”. You can get your own copy directly from Daníel Bergmann, or apparently it’s available in Icelandic bookstores and tourist shops.
The North, as well as a lot of other things, does indeed begin and end in Iceland. For me it’s been too long…
Disclaimer: In fairness I should mention that I’m happy to count Daníel Bergmann as a good friend who I’ve spent too little time with. But I’d be as positive about this collection of photographs even if my worst enemy had published it.