I, Alone

I just spent a lovely ten days with my parents and sister on their recent visit to Iceland. We got to do a fair amount of out-in-the-country-ing, a fair amount of just-normal-life-ing, a fair amount of errand-running, an awesome bit of horse riding, and I even got all three of them to go sea swimming with me, because they are heroes. (My dad in particular gets a shout out for swimming around the cove with me and making sure I didn’t have a panic attack when the Inferi seaweed started tickling my toes.) So as of today—National Day, as it happens—things are slowly returning back to normal here for me. Although ‘normal’ is actually not normal at all, as I now find myself in the midst of a real sumarfrí—summer vacation, that is—without a daily job or school assignments or any of that. (I’ll cope, I promise.)

Valdimar Thorlacius - Photo by Vilhelm, Vísir

Valdimar Thorlacius – Photo by Vilhelm, Vísir

So I’m going through my email and catching up on news and things that happened while I was basically off the Internet, and I’ve been pleased to see that a book of photography by Icelandic photographer Valdimar Thorlacius has been getting a fair amount of attention since it was released at the start of the month. This pleasure is twofold. On one hand, it is a beautiful book of photography on a fascinating subject: the daily lives of hermits in Iceland. On the other, I’m also excited because I translated the accompanying text—excerpted interviews with the photographed individuals—and did so over the course of a weekend. I had editing help, of course, but truly, this is the most extensive (and fastest) translation project that I’ve yet undertaken, made all the more interesting/complicated by the fact that the interview subjects were often talking about the daily circumstances or details of their childhoods on rural farms in Iceland (not a milieu that I’m super well-versed in yet) and also generally had rather roundabout/old-timey colloquial ways of expressing themselves. They are hermits, after all. So I learned a lot doing this translation, not just linguistically, but culturally and historically, too.

Photo by Valdimar Thorlacius, via Vísir

Photo by Valdimar Thorlacius, via Vísir

There’s no link to the book on the Crymogea website yet, but I decided to translate one of the articles that has been written about it. So below is a (quick) translation of the original article that appeared in Vísir on June 6th. Also, Valdimar’s photographs are concurrently being exhibited in the National Museum (until December), so if you happen to be in town, it’d be more than worth a visit. I’ve read that Valdimar, only 25 years old, is the youngest photographer to ever have a solo show at the National Museum, which is objectively pretty darn impressive.

The Vísir article linked to above includes some photos from the book, but you may also want to take a look at this article in DV for others. (The article is in Icelandic.)

„The hermits received me very well.“

Magnús Guðmundsson writes:

An exhibition of the photographs of Valdimar Thorlacius opened at Þjóðminjasafnið, the National Museum, today under the title ‘I, Alone’. Concurrent with Valdimar’s exhibition was Crymogea press’ publication of a book of his photographs. Valdimar is only 25 years old and it could be considered rather unusual that such a young photographer would be exhibiting and publishing a book at the same time, despite the fact that he only began taking photos around 2009, and even then, was only photographing his main interest.

„It started when I got myself a camera to take surfing photos.“ Valdimar has been a passionate surfer for a long time. „The thing is that Iceland is a great place to surf. I’ve gone all around the world to do it and the beaches here in Iceland lose nothing to some of the best international spots. My photography began this way; before I knew it, I’d enrolled in Ljósmyndaskólinn, the photography school, and finished the program in 2014.“

At the end of the last year of his studies, Valdimar took his graduation project for a „portfolio revue“ [sic] at the Reykjavík Museum of Photography, where specialists from all over considered and evaluated submitted works. He was one of two photographers to receive a grant to develop his project further and as a result, both the National Museum and Crymogea got in touch with him.

„The project that I’m exhibiting here has, in reality, been in progress for a long time. It started at school and continued to develop from there.“ Valdimar’s photos tell the stories of hermits living in towns and in the countryside all over Iceland. The photos show these recluses going about their daily lives, repairing their homes, listening to weather reports on the radio, reading the papers, and dozing during the news on TV. Time passes slowly in the world of the loner.

„There was really no one thing that sparked my interest in this subject. I have a lot of interest in documentary photography and it is something that I thought I needed to do. I went all over the country in order to photograph recluses and by and large I was extremely well received. Without a doubt, it helped the project that I was always very clear about what I was going to do.”
„Once the exhibition has opened and the book has been published, I’ll be better able to see if the project should go any further. I’m pretty far along photographing the next series, and I’m continuing to take a documentary approach. So there’s plenty for me to do in the near future.“

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