In Reykjavik

A week and a half ago I got back from a trip to England and Iceland. Over the next several posts I’ll be sharing some images from the trip.

Most likely I’ll be working backward chronologically (there’s been research showing that that’s the way memories are consolidated: when you sleep your memories come back to you from the previous day starting with the most recent one first), so that means I’ll be starting with Iceland.

As you might imagine, there are many amazing things to shoot in Iceland – in fact it’s a photographers paradise! Being so sparsely populated, and having such unique landforms, Iceland’s landscape is enthralling. Yet the first image I’d like to post shows another side of Iceland.

During the five days I was there, waves of misty rain continued to pass through, sometimes broken by several hours of sunshine. When it’s cloudy and the rain is falling, the buildings and people take center stage. I took this shot outside the Reykjavik City Library/Museum of Photography. Noticing this pair on the sidewalk ahead of me I pulled my camera out in the rain and grabbed a few shots before it got too wet. Initially I was attracted to the little girl’s awesome Hello Kitty raincoat, but beyond that I felt this scene helps suggest the Icelanders strong sense of family, culture, style and design.

Mother and daughter in Reykjavik


Having lodged near the main street of art and craft galleries, I was so struck by the unique design aesthetic – that somehow combines the sober and traditional colors and materials (think Icelandic sweaters) with a very modern, daring style (think Björk). You can also hear this in the music of bands like Sigur Rós. At the National Museum of Iceland, I learned that Iceland was quite an undeveloped country, largely missed by the Industrial Revolution, until the early 20th century when they jumped into the modern world with both feet. Perhaps that helps explain the contrast.

The subject of a child and its parent is also a reminder for me that in Iceland, the child’s last name is formed from the parent’s first name (usually the father’s but sometimes the mother’s), plus an indication of whether they are a daughter or a son. For example, if the mom’s name were Bryndís then her daughter might have the last name Bryndísardóttir. It’s actually illegal to take the last name of one’s spouse. To me as an American, there’s something very powerful and intriguing about a culture that links each person to their parent in this way.

One other thing I didn’t notice about this shot until I got home, is that there is a rather uncanny mirror image. Can you spot it??


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