I have long been a fan of making photographs close to home. Not just because it reduces travelling which means lower carbon dioxide emissions but because what is happening outside our own front door is important.
Many photographers make a bit thing of their globetrotting to the preferred locations that have the best landscapes. Iceland is a current favourite and there is no denying that is has stunning ‘views’ with a long list of honey spots that must be included in any photographic itinerary.
The end result of the many photographs produced is the assumption that Iceland is full of scenic, natural, unspoilt ‘wilderness’. It is a very seductive view of the country but it is a partial image that leaves out as much as it includes. It also produces a mythicised and romanticised concept of landscape that bears little resemblance to reality.
There is another side to the Iceland that is less publicised. Today I was sent a link to the work of Pétur Thomsen and was particularly interested in his project “Imported Landscape” – http://www.peturthomsen.is/imported-landscape/ (follow the link for the stunning images)
Here is what he says:
“In the year 2003 The National Power Company of Iceland started the building of the 700 MW Kárahnjúkar Hydroelectric Project in eastern Iceland. The project consists of three dams, one of them being the highest in Europe, and a hydroelectric power plant. The dams block among others the big glacial river Jökulsá á Dal, creating the 57km2 artificial lake Hálslón.
The Power plant is primarily being constructed to supply electricity to a new Aluminium smelter built by Alcoa of USA in the fjord of Reyðarfjörður on the east coast of Iceland.”
I guess it is no wonder that the hordes of photographic tourists choose not to photograph an industrial incursion of this scale. Admitting that Iceland is not pristine and natural would shatter the myth that is the basis for their visit.
What bothers me most is that such partial views of landscape creates unrealistic expectations. Photographic tourists see landscape as pristine and natural which denies any human involvement in the shaping and exploitation of the land. It also divorces us from the land as it seen as something out there rather than something that we are part of. That denies the responsibility we have for protecting the very thing that supports all forms of life.
Thanks to Alan Lodge for sending the link.