Iceland’s biggest and most controversial murder investigation is brought back to life in the exhibit Sugar Paper Theories. British photographer, Jack Latham uses the Guðmundur and Geirfinnur case as a platform to explore the different ways we interpret images.
The famous case, which centers around a disappearance, has recently been taken back to court and is also the subject of the new documentary ‘Out Of thin Air.’ The incident occurred in the mid ‘70s, when Guðmundur Einarsson went missing in Hafnarfjörður. Ten months later, Geirfinnur Einarsson—who is not related to Guðmundur—never returned to his car which he had parked in Keflavík. In the following investigations, six people confessed to crimes they could not recall, making the case truly iconic.
Land of stories
Sugar Paper Theories looks at photographs as contextual evidence and plays with how they reveal our perception of memory, truth and ambiguity. Jack Latham gravitated to this case for various reasons. He claims, “In particular, Iceland has a connection with the idea of storytelling. There’s a long history of storytelling within Iceland, and the setting is a really interesting place.” He continues “I believe it’s one of the largest injustices in Europe. Really when you break down what happened in this case, it’s a form of storytelling.”
Photography is just another way of portraying an event, but the question of what is tangible remains. “I was initially interested in this case because I believe it’s linked well with photography,” says Jack. “It’s the idea of misdirection and misinformation. We live in a time where fake news is now vernacular. As a photographer I create bodies of work and I take photos seemingly out of context and I put them in a different context to generate a narrative.” Sugar Paper Theories delves into this theme; the recreated photographs used for the trial are comparable to a conjured story, unable to define what really occurred. Jack explains, “As much as it’s an investigation into the case, it’s also simultaneously an investigation into the medium of photography, storytelling, and how we view images.”
Fact versus fiction
Sugar Paper Theories keeps in mind the question of what happens when photographic evidence is used to convict people. Jack believes images represent truth while they simultaneously present fiction. “There is an idea of framing and photographer bias—they decide what’s going to be in that frame,” he says. “There is inherent staging to every photograph and they aren’t always what they seem. In the case with reenactment photos, there is the element of staging where people stand in certain places or reenact certain bits. What does that mean about the term ‘evidence’ or ‘document’?”
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram have elements of distress within them, Jack explains. He compares it to a parody of family photos. “You will only put positive pictures of yourself or what you deem worthy to be online. This references a family album. When you go through it there are never the bits of people crying or of funerals,” he says. “You curate a narrative of yourself and I think photography does this so well and I don’t think many people realize the implication of that. That’s what always interested me—how we curate stories about our lives and ourselves.”
Sugar Paper Theories can be viewed at the Reykjavík Museum of Photography until 14 January 2018. Free Admission.