It was all a matter of coincidence. Or coincidences, one after the other. A photographer bears the germ of an idea for publishing several years of unique views of Icelandic landscape.
He gets to chatting with a geoscientist and travel enthusiast who is one of the country’s most prolific writers.
They happen to know a publisher with the enthusiasm to appreciate their proposal for a joint project. And to top it off a translator lives just across the street.
That of course is the essence of Iceland – human connections. This unique society where you don’t look in the yellow pages, you ask your friends, whether you need a plumber, used baby furniture or an apartment to rent. And that became the name of this book, which reflects in images the physical essence of Iceland but doesn’t stop there: instead poetry and prose texts accompanying each photograph extract glimpses of the spiritual character of these same images.
Born in Reykjavík in 1952, Kristján Ingi Einarsson began taking photographs at the age of ten, when he acquired his first box camera. In 1972, he graduated from the Industrial College of Reykjavík as a printer and worked at this trade for a number of years while also doing freelance photography for various newspapers, magazines, companies and institutions.
In 1985, he took over as director of a printing firm, where he would remain until the autumn of 2006, when he sold the business to return to his former pursuit as photographer.
Although Kristján Ingi has held six photographic exhibitions and provided photos for a number of school text books, he became a favourite in our family with a number of highly original children’s books, including: Húsdýrin okkar (Our Domestic Animals), Krakkar, krakkar (Children, Children) and Kátt í koti (Full of Fun).
“My previous work focused more on people and their pursuits, but as I grew older my interest in nature and landscape grew. The photos in this book are all digital, taken during the last four years, and practically untouched.” He smiles, “you don’t have to ‘photoshop’ Icelandic nature. But selecting which photos to include was not easy. I decided to choose the stillness and natural beauty of Icelandic landscape without people.” The outcome, The Essence of Iceland, published by Salka publishers in four languages, Icelandic plus companion English or French or German translations in each volume. There are definitely less pleasant ways to brush up your Icelandic!
“This is my vision of the country, eyed through the camera lens. I don’t wait for hours for the right light but try to catch the light in this single instance,” Kristján Ingi explains. “And I travel routes other than the best-known travellers’ destinations. This book is intended just as much for Icelanders and will hopefully spark their interest in viewing new areas of the country.”
Author and geoscientist Ari Trausti Guðmundsson has given a voice to the images, in haiku-like poems that transpose musings into printed form:
Í dag er ég............... Today I am
skima yfir lendur mínar............. scanning my domain
hlusta á öldurnar...................... listening to waves
les skýin..............reading clouds
leita að bráð.......... seeking prey
Or they can be wry tales masquerading as traditional legends:
Once two giant seals dwelt in Hamravík. Cruel and greedy, they terrified other sea dwellers, even the whales. One night they devoured an entire school of pollock, but when it came to the last fish, one seal refused to let go of the head while the other gripped the tail tightly. Rearing back, challenging and threatening, they stared into each other’s eyes until the sun rose. Both turned to stone while the fish got off with a few scratches.
“They say that photography is a lonely art - at least for the person travelling with the photographer! So my family deserves plenty of thanks for being there to share these visions with me,” Kristján Ingi concludes.
The Essence of Iceland is available from Tergesen’s in Gimli or can be ordered from Amazon.