The Icelandic self-reflective photographer is a 'one to watch' at The Photographer's Gallery's emerging talent expo
As the launch of the annual FreshFaced+WildEyed group exhibition approaches at The Photographer's Gallery in London, we picked out some of our favourite emerging photographers chosen for the show. Here, Icelandic photographer Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir speaks to us about leaving home for Glasgow and her self-reflective style of shooting.
People tend to take photography at face value and look for truths. They forget that it’s a medium, used by people to produce specific images. By pointing back at the medium, making it self-reflective, you remind the viewer what she is looking at and how it was made
Dazed Digital: You have previously worked in fashion - has this impacted your work at all?
Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir: I got to know photography through fashion and just as any creative process, design begins with research. This means searching for inspiring images, flicking through everything from old Vogues to Russian photography books. So I guess fashion may have had an impact on the way I work, perhaps it sparked my interest in editing.
DD: Coming from Iceland and studying in Glasgow must have been a culture shock of sorts, do you think this has influenced, changed or affected your photography? If so, how?
Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir: Glasgow is just about the closest big city to Reykjavik and in a way they are quite alike. Both are a bit drab, grey and rainy, but with this massive, creative force at their heart. But leaving home is very important, especially if home is an island in the middle of the Atlantic. The work I made in Glasgow, 'The Light of Day', is heavily influenced by that. It’s about perspective, looking back, pondering the clichés, history and memories of ‘home’. You can never detach yourself completely from where you come from, and the further you roam, the more impossible it becomes to go back.
DD: Do you think your work is conceptual? If so, how do you decide on the concepts you want to explore?
Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir: Although individual projects might be concept driven, I wouldn’t categorise my work as conceptual. The more conceptual projects then draw on the photographic medium itself, the conception, manifestation and curation of ideas. My photographic series, on the other hand, are shot, edited and sequenced in a very instinctual way. There I focus more on evoking a certain feeling and they take a long time to evolve. To me editing is the most important part of a photographic work. Maybe that is why I started working with found images. I found there were so many images out there of just about everything, of all kinds of quality and styles, so adding more seemed a bit superfluous. Ultimately, I believe that the context in which you encounter the work and how the images relate to one another, allows a new, independent meaning.
DD: Some of your images reflect on the process of photography - what about this interests you?
Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir: I’m still getting to know the medium, trying to understand its properties. Sometimes I find it almost silly and have an urge to poke fun at it. If we take it too seriously no one else will.
Also, people tend to take photography at face value and look for truths, moments of the 'real' world captured by an invisible, objective force. They forget that it’s a medium, used by people to produce specific images. By pointing back at the medium, making it self-reflective, you remind the viewer what she is looking at and how it was made.
DD: What's next?
Hallgerður Hallgrímsdóttir: Right now I'm working on a book, a kind of album, with images from Turkey and Iceland. I’m very excited about this piece of work. In 'The Light of Day' I worked a lot with found images, editing them together with my own photographs to make up the body of work. Now I have been experimenting with photographing in a vernacular style, drawing on my experience with found images, and combining those images with more formal photographer-esque ones. This work is part of European Borderlines, a 12 photographer project that will be shown in various places in the coming months.
I’m also working on an exhibition for Reykjavik Museum of Photography which will be a critique of sorts of Icelandic landscape photography. For too long landscape has been the sole star in Icelandic photography. I'm exhibiting a landscape series from web cameras, mechanical eyes staring at Icelandic landscape the year round, put in their places for practical reasons, not to record beauty. Sometimes they can’t help but doing so but mostly their view is dull.