Estranged in Iceland by RS Nisio

Vanishing point, Vesturbaer.

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I am a freelance photographer and graphic artist currently residing in Lisbon, Portugal. I studied cinema in Rome before turning to photography as my preferred vehicle of expression in the recent years. I worked extensively with different media and perhaps for this reason my style is eclectic and frequently incorporates digital montage elements and heavily relies on creative photo editing. I often make of the nonsense that is transcendental in reality my subject matter; I am trying to visualize the ominous, the bizarre and the cinematic around me through my own lens and following my own rules. I strongly believe that every artist is free to make use of any means at his or her disposal to convey his or her idiosyncratic vision. This includes hybridization of analogue and digital.

This series of images, which I titled “Estranged in Iceland”, was taken between 2010 and 2012. I resided and worked in the country for a few years and the photos reflect a state of mind more than they illustrate the stunning beauty of the territory. Experiencing places by living there differs greatly from visiting them; I feel these images are somewhat distant in spirit from the overflowing abundance of cute imagery depicting the Icelandic landscape in a vivid postcard format, an approach that is always enjoying great popularity, regardless of the subject at hand. At the time of my residence in Reykjavik, my Icelandic experience was, sadly, a conflictual one. I was trying to grasp at the essence of a territory whose charisma and unspeakable nature was being assessed with cynical eye by its own inhabitants in order to sell a 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 a place constantly bathed in forlorn light, silent and discreet, but at the same time wild, untamed and cruel, a place where the reassuring human need for acknowledgment was more than anywhere else destined to remain a fleeting fragment at the mercy of the tremendous power of the elements. My vision was soon turned into an instant relic, as the result of literary and artistic ideals constantly crushed under the pressure for exposure. The country I was experiencing was totally different from the one local and international media were so eager to put on display. I started to feel I was alone and stranded on unreal shores, thus growing estranged with the passing of time. My world was growing smaller as the country was opening up to embrace its universal triumph and coverage. Beyond their illustrative quality, I sort of consider these photos as self-portraits of an inner sense of displacement and partial existential void. They’re affectionate and schismatic mementos of an indistinct and tearing longing for a frontier that was slowly disappearing, swallowed by the growing appetites of a nation desperately looking for international attention, devoted to promoting and selling its distinctive features through loud headlines more than to protecting and enshrining them quietly.

My flawed relationship with Iceland I tried to convey through the glitched filter of the mobile platform. The mobile tool proved to be extremely flexible and well-suited for granting the whole project the required stylistic coherence, despite the wide heterogeneity of the shooting conditions and the structural limitations inherent to the medium employed. The photos were in fact taken over a long period of time in different locations all over the country, although the majority of them were shot in the Reykjavik area, where I was residing. Before moving on, I felt the urge to make a posthumous evaluation of my Icelandic experience, to dispel some of the accumulated commonplaces and reassess my personal view over the overpowering refuses of the media. I have so much material I still have to go through, and more time will have to pass before I can get at a purified and pacified perspective.

Snowy crest, East Iceland. Winter on the road, East Iceland. The wasteland's meek shrubberies, East Iceland. Forlorn bystanders, South Iceland. All quiet in Nauthólsvík. No more boats to pull, Vesturbaer. Ripples in the afternoon, Vesturbaer. The North Atlantic, restless and overcast. Summer rain creasing the ocean's surface. The marshy mirrors of Vesturbaer. Absent static, Vesturbaer. The full moon over Vesturbaer. Old harbor, Reykjavik. Midwinter morning.


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