Photography News Issue 24 absolutephoto.com
I had no idea I’d be making a book when I went to Iceland, and initially I found the landscape there quite difficult to connect with. Gradually, over a few years as the work grew the book concept began to develop. It was to be a book of the landscapes of Iceland, but as I met more of the people there and both learned and experienced more of the country, its history and its cultures the book changed and morphed through a number of iterations before the final one. It still contains many landscape images but also references the barren nature of this active volcanic island, its unstable eruptive forces and the uneasy relationship with those who settled there, eventually drawing power and energy from the land but ultimately returning into it. It’s a metaphor for the universal cycle of matter. With Iceland being a hot destination for photographers, did you find taking unique photos that bit more challenging? Not once I had developed a rapport with it – which did take a little while. I think we all see things differently and it depends on what you are looking for as a photographer. Although Iceland does have many must-see hotspots, the spirit of a place is often better found elsewhere and sometimes that is away from the tourist spots. My pictures are a mixture of both. For example, the cover image (below) was a nowhere in particular location that nobody would go to specifically for a picture. I was driving past after sundown one night and the light was just so. It said something to me about the eruptions that formed the country and it starts the story. It would probably look quite bland on another occasion. The final image of the illuminated graves (left) that closes the book and, metaphorically, nature’s cycle was similarly not a spot that would be on a photo tour, but was very powerful for me. Did you head out there with an agenda of what you wanted to shoot, or did you just take each day as it comes? A bit of each really. I have some ideas and locations in mind but try to be open to what presents itself and to be prepared for the unexpected. I also like to just go off and explore and search for the unexpected. It depends when you go. The weather and the light are notoriously changeable in Iceland, but they have a saying “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute”. The last January that I was at Dyrhólaey looking down to the beach below I arrived on the cliff top in sunshine and blue sky but within 15 minutes was standing in driving snowwith minimal visibility. Half an hour later it was almost impossible to stand up against the wind. That What are some of the challenges of shooting in Iceland?
How long did it take to complete the book? That is a difficult question to answer. The negatives were made from 2007 to 2014. The book concept became redefined over four or five years, printmaking spanned eight years, putting the book together took three years. What are some of the hurdles you face when putting a book together? Firstly to have a clearly defined concept and a purpose. This may change and develop but needs to be clear. Secondly I’d say to be organised and disciplined. It can be important to have someone to consult for a critical second opinion. It is easy to become too close to the work to be objective. If doing it yourself, design, printing, budgeting and marketing are all vital aspects that have to be addressed and can be challenging, depending on the scale of your project. When it came to putting the book together, was it tough selecting the final images? The criteria changed over time as the book morphed from landscape images into a bit more of a story vehicle. This meant that I eventually included some images that were never intended for the book, but they had a place in the background narrative. Similarly, some personal favourites had to go because they didn’t fit or because there wasn’t space. What’s next on the cards for you? I hope the exhibition of this work will tour if funding permits and I do have other projects. At this stage, watch this space.
is not unusual and I have had many similar experiences, especially in winter. You really have to respect the weather there. On my last visit I got stranded in a white- out and blizzard on top of a mountain pass in the north-east. The road had been officially closed for three days but was opened when the weather cleared. It was sunny when my wife and I set off, but without warning the weather changed at altitude and it became impossible to see anything at all, even to the front of the car. The rescue services were great but the two-hour crossing took eight hours, and much of it in the dark of course. In winter, daylight shooting hours are very short, as low as four hours, so time is precious. But sunrise doesn’t come before 11am, so late risers will be happy! It can get quite chilly in winter and some film cameras (and batteries) don’t like that much. Iceland is relatively mild in the south and even in the north winter temperatures are typically only around -10ºC, but they can plummet to -25ºC or so and wind chill makes it seem colder. My camera’s focal plane shutter exhibited drag in the cold, making the printing trickier. Also medium-format offers relatively few exposures per roll and reloading in bad weather can be challenging. Why black & white for this book? I always liked black & white anyway, but it is well suited to the way I see Iceland with its black lava, ice and white surf. It has a graphic look. Black & white simplifies things to their form, texture and tone. It also removes them one step from reality. Adding false colour through toning allows me to take it a further step from reality and frees the viewer to find their own interpretation more easily. Any highlights from the project? Many. Some weather and location related and some people related. And those magic moments when a picture ‘works’. Perhaps the annual autumn horse round-up; especially the night before with the horse owners who came from far and wide. Prodigious amounts of alcohol were consumed, whilst singing and feasting on vast quantities of home-cooked specialties into the small hours. Were there any technical issues with shooting using film?
Above clockwise Aurora Borealis, selenium and thiourea toned silver gelatin. Winter homestead, seleniumand thiourea toned silver gelatin. MoonriseMyrdalssandur, seleniumand thiourea toned silver gelatin. Lines of communication, seleniumand thiourea toned silver gelatin. Summer night, seleniumand thiourea toned silver gelatin. Below After Dark, seleniumand thiourea toned silver gelatin print.
Iceland, An Uneasy Calm
Eight years in the making, Tim Rudman’s latest book, Iceland, An Uneasy Calm , exploring the landscape, culture and people of Iceland through 98 prints comes out this October. Snap it up early for a pre-release price of £45 (excluding shipping) or if you miss out, it’s retailing at £55. opasbooks.com/book
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