Set on the remote island of Grimséy, twenty-five miles north of mainland Iceland and bordering the Arctic Circle, this series focuses on the lives of a small, insular fishing community in one of the most unique locations on earth. Taken on multiple visits over the course of two years, these images capture the idiosyncrasies of life in a region with a remarkable blend of influences: an Icelandic-Island culture, fixated as much by the prevalence of maritime commerce as it is unbounded by its unique remoteness. Imitating a documentary style, my photographs are heavy with the emotional pull of real lives, yet they embody an especially uneasy sense of familiarity: a product of building upon established traditions in landscape and portrait photography, while also incorporating formal elements of abstract-modernism.
The landscapes and interiors in Grimséy are noticeably self-contained. Small artifacts of life are found everywhere in the series – seagulls, children’s toys, traps and fishing gear – each isolated within one of the island’s immense vistas: stark plaster walls, pastel curtains, grassy fields undulating into cliffs and sea, everywhere united by angular elements of perspective and color. Any individual element of life on Grimséy, perhaps familiar to the audience by itself, somehow resists assimilation in the larger unity of the images.
The feeling of resistance found in the series is a testament to the authenticity of the island’s sub-culture, a sense that is completed by the portraits of the denizens themselves, who in their candid humility are, nevertheless, impenetrably distant and wonderfully remote.
Cole Barash (b. 1987) is a visual artist based in Brooklyn, NY. Working in the mediums of digital, analog, and archival photography, his work often focuses on the conversation of color and composition between two objects or moments. His photography has been featured in numerous publications including, Time Lightbox, Rolling Stone, Vogue, and Relapse Mag, among others. His book, Grimséy (2015) was published by The Silas Finch Foundation and subsequently recognized by TIME as one of the top photobooks of 2015. Images from Grimséy have been displayed in a solo exhibition at the National Museum of Iceland in 2017. Barash’s most recent book, Smokejumpers (2017) presents a vision into the truly inaccessible world of wildland firefighters and was shortlisted for the 2017 Anamorphosis Prize becoming part of the Franklin Furnace Archive as well as the collection at the MoMA Library.