Interpreting the Icelandic Psyche - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Interpreting the Icelandic Psyche

Interpreting the Icelandic Psyche

Published May 9, 2008

“My pictures are silent descriptions, staging melancholy, fragility and nobleness of the ordinary life,” says French photographer Thomas Humery. On May 16, he will open his first solo exhibition in Iceland at the National Museum. Entitled ‘In the Mist’, the exhibition features landscape photos and portraits, documenting young Icelanders and their surroundings.

Humery, who has exhibited around Europe and contributed to various magazines and newspapers for the past decade, including Libération, L’Officiel Voyage, Monocle and Glamour, has worked on the Icelandic photo series for approximately nine months. He visited Iceland five times during that period and got locals to pose for a series that depict young people in their own daily environment. Humery says that he is mostly influenced by 19th century photography, portraitists Ingres and Verspronck and painters Van der Weyden and Bronzino. In his portraits, he works with simple settings and lets the expressions on his subjects’ faces reveal their thoughts and feelings. To tell a story of the young people’s lives he mixes the portraits with family-houses, public buildings and outdoor-areas.

Humery’s project began in 2005 when he took part in a residence program in Finland. “I went during the winter and was interested to take pictures of young people during that tough period of the year. Nevertheless, this documentary aspect wasn’t enough. I thought that I should put something more in my pictures, something more ambiguous and in a way out of time. I started to compose my portraits like old paintings from the Dutch period with this strict protestant aspect. From that point, I was interested to continue this approach between documents and references in another Nordic context and in a larger scale,” he explains.
Asked why he chose Iceland for his next project, Humery says: “From France, Iceland is a bit mysterious and what is mysterious is of course very attractive. But more seriously, besides the idea of young people in the stiffness, where they are patient during the long winter, turned to their inner world and rebirth during a fleeting summer, I was seduced by the fact that the people are very connected to each other and very social. It was precious for me to meet all these different people and to be able to produce a large gallery of portraits.”

He continues: “I was attracted to Iceland because of its isolation and its supposed strong conditions. I was projecting in my mind a lot of images, feelings and intuitions, wrong or right. So my project in Iceland was to produce portraits of young people with different backgrounds, paraphrasing the “Portrait of a young man/woman” that we find as a topic in the history of painting. I have added with the same approach some landscapes and views more or less connected to the young people’s occupations or hang-around places. At the end, my project is more a personal interpretation of the Icelandic psyche than a geographic or sociologic study,” Humery concludes.

The exhibition will be open from May 16 until mid September.
The National Museum of Iceland
Suðurgata 41
www.natmus.is

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