Celina Lunsford came to Iceland last month for the release of the book ‘Frontiers of Another Nature: Pictures from Iceland’ (‘Ný náttúra: Myndir frá Íslandi’). The book is the latest release from Crymogea, and published on the occasion of the arts and culture programme “Fabulous Iceland—Guest of Honour of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2011”; accompanying the exhibition ‘Frontiers of Another Nature – Contemporary Photographic Art from Iceland’ which was shown at Fotografie Forum Frankfurt from August 19—October 16, 2011. Celina Lunsford is the artistic director of Fotografie Forum Frankfurt, and photographic editor of the book.
The title of the book is borrowed from the first photography book from Iceland. This is not another monograph, rather a dialogue between contemporary and historical photographs showing traces of man’s interventions and interaction with the expansive landscape of Iceland. The book is a selection of fifty Icelandic photographers spanning the first 150 years of photography. The book is sequenced like beat poetry, with the historical records playfully juxtaposed with contemporary photography. Topography took precedence over the artist biography in the selection process. Celina wanted content that would sustain ongoing interest. Photographs were rigorously culled from the collections of the National Museum and the Reykjavík Museum of Photography resulting in an amazing survey that creates a visual narrative around a vast landscape, or loss thereof.
I had the opportunity to speak with Celina after the lecture. We both originate from similar parts of rural America and spoke about the decline of the native landscape. Both being expatriates for over a decade, our witness to the rapid acceleration of this process is not skewed by the creeping normalcy that blinds a local populous. With each visit to our homeland, the suburban sprawl of ubiquitous concrete blocks seems more epidemic, nearly beyond the point of recognition. I ask, do you remember back in early Hanna-Barbera cartoons when animators repeated the same background over and over during a travelling scene in order to save time? Tom chased Jerry through a house that seemed to go on forever with the same coffee table, vase, window, door every three seconds. America is beginning to look like this to me. I can no longer rely on my vision to gauge location when driving past Walmart, Starbucks, McDonalds, Walmart.
I visited Iceland for four days in 2006. I briefly studied geology, and was fascinated by the landscape. Iceland seemed to be set back in time, and that was a beautiful thing.
It reminds me of what we lost not so long ago. Is there a relationship between conservationism and landscape photography?
It is not an old idea. Of course, Ansel Adams made us aware of the beauty of our surroundings, but learning to respect our environment is a rather new concept.
What does the future hold for the next 150 years of landscape photography?
Up until now it has been a reflection on preciousness. Perhaps landscape is viewed in a symbolic sense, with a focus on detail in the future. Our choice of lens will certainly become more narrow as the natural landscape diminishes.