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Jói Kjartans

Introducing the Icelandic photographer capturing Reykjavik's party-hard underground scene in the candid eye of his lens

Jói Kjartans is an Icelandic photographer who goes through rolls of film like Tony Montana went through product. He spends practically every moment he can shooting whatever catches his eye and he has an uncanny ability to capture the essential spirit of his subjects, all of whom he tends to shoot in moments of transition. He recently assisted one of Dazed's most eminent friends and family members, Magnus Unnar in New York, and is more than ready to step out of the shadows and into the light. In the very early hours, as the midnight sun turned into the morning sun, Dazed Digital took a peek into his viewfinder to discover stunning series of works that capture the stay-up-all-night culture at the heart of Reykavik.

Dazed Digital: Why are you drawn to portraiture?
Jói Kjartans:
I love to shoot people almost before they know I'm doing it, before they put on their mirror slash camera face. I love those spontaneous moments where people are caught up in the action.There is no real clubbing scene to talk about in Reykjavik. We have loads of small bars and cafés that turn into sardine cans after midnight, glaced with beer and strong alcohol. In summer, we have sunlight almost 24/7 so people stay out until morning – afterparties under the bare morning sky are common after the bars close.

Dazed Digital: What do you try to capture in your photography?
Jói Kjartans:
 I try to capture the fleeting moments and the overlooked places we miss while caught up in the bliss or boredom of everyday life. I have shot over a 1000 films for the past five years, so I have documented my life pretty thoroughly.

Dazed Digital: Do you think of photography as capturing a moment for eternity?
Jói Kjartans:
 It sure does. I have a pretty bad memory myself so to me it's almost vital to capture these moments as I go. I think that the film is a better medium to capture them with since it's something solid, and in my opinion it has a lot more soul. The digital revolution doesn't really interest me. Sure it's convenient to be able to shoot 700 pictures a night and then edit them all later. But then you are capturing 700 random moments instead of 36 precise ones. Life's too short for that.

Dazed Digital: What kind of cameras do you use?
Jói Kjartans:
 I favour snapshot cameras such as the Yashica T4 while on the road. I've wrecked at least five of them to this date. But for more professional projects I use a Contax G2 which is closely connected to the Yashica because of it's great Carl Zeiss lenses. I have all my films developed straight onto CD which usually gives me very satisfying results. I would like to experiment with more cameras, like the Contax T2 or T3 but my budget is always sort of limited due to my fanatic film use.

Dazed Digital: Is there a darker side to the underground scene in Reykjavik?
Jói Kjartans:
 There is a pretty big drug scene. There’s a lot of speed in downtown Reykjavik, which can make it a pretty dangerous place during weekends. It's not uncommon to see fights in the streets, which usually get out of hand because the police are greatly undermanned. Mushrooms and Ecstasy are also quite popular, which I think is quite weird since there are no real clubs here. That whole scene makes no sense to me. The suicide rate rises greatly during high winter, specially among young men. This might have something or everything to do with the SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that affects most of us here during winter when we have almost no sunlight months at a time.

Dazed Digital: What are you working on right now?
Jói Kjartans:
I'm working on a 500 page photography book that reflects the past five years of my life. I'm thinking about calling it Joi de Vivre since it's basicly a document of the people and places I've encountered during this time. Joie de Vivre roughly translates as joy of life, so I just subtracted the E and voilá, you have my name. The book will hopefully be published on Reykjavik Culture Night, August 21. The format is inspired by Stephen Shore's American Surfaces, so maybe we can call it Icelandic Surfaces for the time being.