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The magazine of the photo-essay
May 2017 issue
Iceland
by Ulrike Crespo
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
With her Iceland series, Ulrike Crespo takes on an extraordinary landscape, which has inspired countless travel and art photographers since the 19th century. And yet she succeeds in producing images that depict the breath-taking wealth of colors and forms of this wild island in a completely new way, often in nearly abstract details: turquoise-blue icebergs, black volcanic sand, white foaming waterfalls, mossy green boulders, and sulphuryellow gravel deserts. From the text by Halldór Gu ðmundsson: Crespo demonstrates her extremely sharp eye for light, reflections and unusual perspectives in the next series of photos, also above water, but this time of the frozen kind – glaciers, snow and icebergs in melting lagoons. We see not only the pure, deep blue of the thousand-year-old ice, ice which is, in fact, colourless but never looks that way to us, but also the glaciers stained black by ash and sand, many of which could disappear in only a few decades. Something else presented to the viewer is the monotonous, uninviting grey of the lifeless rocks on the high plateaus. However, the photographer’s gaze repeatedly shifts back to the unusual brown, red and yellow tones of the geothermal regions, and thus to the green life in the middle of this high tundra, be it the deep green of the moss or the bright
green of the grass that grows along the rivers, defying the hard winter in the centre of the country to grow back every summer, unlike the moss, which take centuries to recover from the slightest damage. Many of these photos were taken in the region in which all these natural elements come together, the region known in Icelandic as “Aðfjallabaki”, “behind the mountains”. Time and time again Crespo succeeds in showing new (even to Icelanders) parts of this, the most beautiful part of Iceland, in revealing unusual correlations and changing our perspective on those clichéd photos in the many books on Iceland and even taking us under the rainbow. The name could therefore even become symbolic of this book – it takes its readers behind Iceland’s mountains. It is nature that is our real treasure, even if we do not boast any natural resources: the kind of nature that is to be found in the pictures of this book with its almost deserted landscapes – the black rocks, the grey water and the bright green, that barely-living, just-surviving green. A harsh, unyielding kind of nature with just a hint of life, one that draws us to it over and over again. Tourism in Iceland has tripled over the past decade. And suddenly there is something to that closing idea from the 50-year old documentary film. When we come back from our next trip will our country, its nature, its emptiness still be there? Or will it have disappeared? I certainly hope not, but if it has gone, then it is good to have such unique documents as this photo book.
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