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Estranged in Iceland
I’ve always felt a deep kinship with the character of Cosimo Piovasco in Calvino’s novel, Il Barone Rampante; as a born escapist, my selfish ideal was to find a tree to climb never to descend again. When I moved to Iceland in the midst of its financial crisis, I was eager to make it my tree and live forever in the caressing murmurs of its chill waters. At first it was pure bliss: I’ve never experienced such a perfect elation and fondness for any other place and probably never will.
With the post-crisis tourism boom, a gulf opened up: now that everybody was taking flashy pictures of waterfalls and rainbows over lava fields, I started to feel that the colorless melancholy of opaque windows, eroded boulders and seaweed suited me better. I was still trying to grasp at the essence of a territory whose ineffable nature was being assessed with cynical eye by its own inhabitants willing to sell the paradigm of perfect retreat for the cool and the well-behaved. My Iceland however was not cool and well-behaved; on the contrary, it was hushed, untamed and unapproachable. It defied the reassuring human need for acknowledgment, a need destined to remain a fleeting fragment at the mercy of the tremendous power of the elements and dissolving in forlorn light. The country I was experiencing was totally different from the one local and international media were so desperate to put on display. I started to feel stranded on unreal shores, thus growing more and more alien to my surroundings.
These photos were taken over a long period of time in different locations all over the country, although the majority was shot in the Reykjavik area. They are affectionate and schismatic mementos of an indistinct and tearing longing for a frontier on the verge of disappearing, swallowed by the growing appetites of a nation frantically looking for international attention, devoted to promoting and selling its distinctive features through loud headlines more than to protecting and enshrining them.
Before moving on, I felt the urge to make a posthumous evaluation of my Icelandic experience, to dispel some accumulated commonplaces and reassess my personal view over the strident refuses of the media. More time will have to pass before I can get at a purified and pacified perspective.
“All that remains in the inner recess of the ear is a vague murmur: the sea.” – Italo Calvino, Il Barone Rampante
RS Nisio is a graphic artist, photographer and writer currently based in Lisbon, Portugal. She studied cinema in Rome, before moving on to embrace photography and illustration as her primary vehicles of expression. She worked extensively with different media and for this reason she was able to develop an eclectic style that frequently incorporates digital montage techniques and heavily relies on creative photo editing. While she was living in Iceland, she worked as freelance journalist and concert photographer and published her work under different names in several accredited media, including Iceland’s national broadcaster RUV and MTV. She shares some of her knowledge and thoughts on mobile photography on the blog Appotography.