Ásgeir Pétursson is a 23-year-old photographer who’s just opened an exhibition at Reykjavík’s Greenland Centre, at the top of Laugavegur. He first went to Greenland in January 2014, supposedly to visit with his relocated parents for two weeks, but wound up staying for nine months.
“I just loved it,” says the soft-spoken young photographer, standing in the gallery space. “It’s hard to describe why. There’s just nothing I can compare it to. It’s 22 times bigger than Iceland—you can sail somewhere, walk to shore, and know that probably nobody has walked in your footsteps before. It feels like travelling for 24 hours to some completely different place in the world—like the middle of Africa or something—but it’s just two and half hours away. Greenland and Australia are the oldest countries in the world, and Iceland is the youngest, so it’s a completely different landscape.”
Photo by Art Bicnick
His exhibition shows a keen eye for the vast emptiness of Greenland. Many of the shots were taken whilst Ásgeir travelled around the country’s coastline by boat. One particularly eye-catching shot shows an iceberg in the sea, with various organic ice shapes rippling down into the ocean.
“I was sailing from a reindeer farm I was working on,” recalls Ásgeir. “We saw this iceberg, and I asked if we could go for a look. We went over there and stopped there for ten minutes. I got this shot, and we sawed off a piece of the iceberg to put in our whisky. This is probably the only photograph of that iceberg.”
The middle of nowhere
He’d been doing some heavy work on the farm, owned by another Icelander. “The farm was three hours from Qarqortoq, in the middle of nowhere,” recalls Ásgeir. “I had a job erecting a reindeer fence up over a mountain, with the farmer’s son. We would walk up there with the poles tied to our back. The weather was perfect—we were just in shorts—but it was quite brutal work.”
Throughout his travels, Ásgeir was always on the lookout for a good picture. “I always had my camera with me,” he says. “When I was sailing or working, my boss always gave me good opportunities to shoot. These photographs are all of Nuuk and South Greenland, so I still have many areas of the country left to photograph—the brutality of north Greenland, especially.”
One magnificently textured shot shows a glacier with twin icefalls, where the vast Greenlandic ice cap tumbles down to ground level close to the coastline. “I went to this glacier with two Greenlanders, who said that six years before, the glacier had come all the way down into the sea,” says Ásgeir. “They were in shock about how rapidly it had retreated. In a couple more years, there’ll be a big area between the glacier and the sea. You can really see what’s happening with the climate there.”
Having caught the bug for Greenland, Ásgeir plans to go back and see the east coast this summer, both for the fun of exploration, and to further develop his portfolio of images. “I’m already working on a photography book,” he says. “It’s in the works. I know already I’ll go back many times. They say that nobody goes to Greenland just once.”
The show is at Greenland Centre, Laugavegur 96, open 10:00-19:00 daily until Feb 1. More info on our listings website.