B&WEuropeStoryIceland by Sophie Oddo

In 2015, I moved to Iceland for about six months. Student in the Academy of the Arts of Reykjavik, I discovered the Icelandic everyday life. Far from tourist dreams, living from day to day a « behind the scene » of a small country, living in the heart of mass tourism.
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ISSUE 10 / DEADLINE: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1, 2019
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In 2015, I moved to Iceland for about six months. Student in the Academy of the Arts of Reykjavik, I discovered the Icelandic everyday life. Far from tourist dreams, living from day to day a « behind the scene » of a small country, living in the heart of mass tourism.

Just right in the midst of the strong ambivalence between the Icelandic identity, its country, its lands, indefinable landscapes, and what man has done to it. This is where I developped a work of analog photographic series of my explorations far from the city.

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddo

I walked, groped on these lands. I lived there strong adventures, vibrating, so solitdary, that they often brought me back to theses primitive sensations of the discovery of the world, romantics needs to find myself there alone, alive. And yet, always with the present consciousness of what was happening in the heart of the city, and spreading on the land. I discovered a Nature, which I seemed to know since I was young, but exceeded me this time. A Nature so powerful, unpredictable, that she let me realized that Man, invading as he is, is only a tiny dust when she decides to wake up. I also discovered a confusing Iceland. Significant of men encroachment, where no landscape has been preserved. Far from postcards, far from ideal daydreams. And yet, in the midst of all this, a certain and nameless beauty. As if, the more nature rebels herself, the more beautiful and powerful she become.

While I was there because I was thinking this country was the one of the purest in the world, I found out that Iceland was one of the worse. I learned that Earth is not sustainable for future. That we will never do more things than we are doing today. Using more and more of the earth, making resources disappearing. With no way back. If all of this was so painful to hear and learn, it took my photographic work on another level, where I deeply had the need to testify, awaken consciences.

Pétur Thomsen is one of the most inspiring artist that I discovered there. He opened a way and a real talk about Nature and Human, and the use of Nature for Human. I always searched for this idea, for my words, about Nature and us. About, how important and beautiful is Nature, and what human is doing to it. What we have to do, is to learn on Nature. Money doesn’t make us happy. Consumption doesn’t make us happy. Actually people are getting less and less happy. And human just went so far that now, it’s like an unfixable problem. So what can we do, with something that we can’t fix? What can I do as a photographer? Pétur Thomsen made me realize. He found that the only way for him to do something was to follow the transformation of the land, and just give it all his respect by photographing it in a beautiful way.

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddo

With his work, I just realized that humans really want to dominate nature and they can’t leave anything untouched. Even when they are talking about “good things for the earth/environment”, it’s actually quite always for human profit. That is what I actually figured out by traveling by myself, further than touristic places.

During one of my travel in the country, it suddenly came to me. Everywhere I was going, were human traces. Building machines, tractor, crane, everywhere. One evening, I found myself in the middle of mountains, close to the big glacier, Vatnajökull. Nothing around. Nothing except nature. And silence. But in this pure calm and silence, a distant noise was disturbing everything. Two men were digging some holes in the middle of nowhere. And it felt totally insane. Why do they have to be here? Why do they have to be everywhere? To dig everywhere, to build everywhere? There was nothing around. Just Nature, this really vast Nature. And them.

Human can’t leave a place untouch, he feels forced to make it his own. To profit the most, to increase the most. In a world where we actually live as the result of adventures and pioneers, the need to do big things and make everything our own, going where no one ever went, live where no one ever lived, use nature… became a need bigger and bigger, and probably the need of everyone. And we are more and more on earth. And there is less and less unexploited land by human, and even less good exploited. Instead of taking what earth is offering to us and just statisfy ourselves, while respecting her, we destroy her.

And this is where I stand. As a human, as a photographer. And this is where I wondered that maybe if Iceland is for everyone a pure land, beautiful and untouched, the way to show the reality of human there could have a real impact on society.

So for almost six months, I worked photography, to manage to talk about the impact that human has on Nature, against his romantic needs to always find himself close to her. A work on this ambivalence.

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddo

This work is a journey, photograph by photograph, which tell the saga of human in nature, showing and confronting what human is doing here, and power of Nature. I think my work is not telling the story of one character, but more exposing our own person, souls, and life, in this giant world we just pass through. It’s a work about us, about the past, the future, about our questions, and infinite non-answers. I want to bring the spectator into this world, let him feel the silence, this loneliness we are all living in one way or another. With landscapes, mountains that have these eternal strength to make us think more and put into perspective your life. But also with this white purity.

This continuous movement of man in the heart of a powerful nature, unpredictable, that once in the middle of nothing and without reference, seems to have no temporality. We have felt these strange sensations, of a timeless temporality, where we then realize that before us, with us, and without us, she will continue.

My analog technique, in black and white, also allows me to translate this lack of reference points. More aesthetic this time, but still, no less meaningless. Like etchings, sometimes charcoal drawings, these landscapes stand here, in the present, but interacting with all the temporalities. We then question what we know about things, about the life that passes, and about our relationship to Nature that evolves, and is here since the beginning of time. Iceland is worldwild known for its quite magical touch, myths, magic and mystery. It has this really interesting thing that can, for a moment, takes people far from medias, and let them feel what they actually have inside as human beeing. Because strange, magic, has power to bring curiosity to the spectator. And if there is curiosity, there is thoughts. And if there is thoughts, there is introspection and reflexion. I took my photographs in black and white, and the look of them immediatly made me connect to the past. And I think this part of my work is something that can connect with this curiosity, that play with our perceptions. And if you play with perceptions, you play with the reality, and ask questions about it. It is in the inverted world that human can find answers, or move forward. And it also puts another perspective, another “look”, to this dream lands everyone has in mind.

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddo

In line with my need to go back to simplicity, far from the media world, I also immediatly wanted this work to be a physical work. Analog on paper, to feel the dimension of this paper, which is a simple thing that always bring us back to our roots, far from screens. Making something concrete, touchable, in the now. Using feelings. I think if you come back to love, wonder and feelings, you will enjoy the simple things of life again and you will not need to use more and more to live. All about the simple things of life. Experience the world with our senses. Feel. Be curious. Question yourself. Look at the world. Listen to nature. And if you become more aware, you are getting close to your heart. And in this media world, getting close to your heart, is what we all need, to act with intelligence, and protect the world.

These analog photographs are for me and undefined work, suspended in time, as much as these lands evolved. Four years later, I still have these regular thoughts about this country I have known. That I photographed at a specific moment, in an idea of footprint, groping, of an evolution never ended, and which continues evolving since then, without me, with everybody and without person. What has become this country? This is a photographic work suspended in time. One Trace Work, which reflects timelessly, a precise time in a world we all live in, in constant evolution – that could be yesterday, today or tomorrow – right in between a positive progress, and the one which deserves we think about.

A timeless evolution, which raises awareness about what is, what was and what will be. Between solitary adventures and inventory of fixtures. A testimony, another vision of a country which we we talk a lot about, which has its own essence, but which happens to be an huge spokesperson of the world we live in.

Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddov

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddo

Iceland | Sophie Oddo
Iceland | Sophie Oddo



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