The beginning of the quiet earth

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This week I attempt a larger set of Iceland prints – again arranging them on a single half-sheet of Fabriano.

My selection of images is more specific than last week – focussing around the buildings on the Keflavik airbase. It’s hard to convey quite what my fascination is with them, then or now. There was undoubtedly something incredibly haunting and isolated about the environment in which they sit. Their pseudo art-deco transatlanticism immediately at odds with the barren Icelandic landscape that surrounds them. They feel out of place, and out of time, torn from the environs of a Midwest towns business district and abandoned in the Icelandic tundra.

I remember being endlessly fascinated by the base when I first visited for a festival in 2014, I have never visited a place that felt so inherently, if benevolently haunted. It had a Marie-Celeste quality, built around the lives of an Airforce that had created a microcosm of Middle-America, only to vanish seemingly overnight with the slow death of the cold war. Walking through the streets in the eerie light of midnight sun, but me in mind of the opening scenes of the 1971 film – The Andromeda Strain – a town abandoned but perfectly preserved, eerie and haunted.

I am not exactly sure what the typology I have created within these eight images actually represents – only that it is far more expressive and meaningful than the collection of water towers that I gathered in the summer. Each image is loaded, not only with their own sense of isolation and otherness, but also with my own as I took the photographs. Importantly I feel they need to exist as series, as a body of work – each informs the next to create a complete view into this engaging other world.

Technically this print is now way near as successful as last week. Primarily because I mess up the order of the CMYK layers and place the yellow last – creating a strong yellow cast. This, combined with poor pulling means the print has an almost sepia, painterly quality, almost as if they have been done onto canvas. I’m not sure I don’t like it – but because it isn’t technically correct (and again because I am not in control of the process) it annoys me.

One thing that is incredibly interesting is how the warm yellow tint combines with the painterly quality of the printing and the subject matter itself to evoke (at least to me) the architectural painting of Edward Hopper. The strong shadows and eerie soft light put me in mind of some of my favourite Hopper studies – Second Story Sunlight, Lighthouse Hill or House at Dusk.

The pinhole camera injects a wonderful softness into these image that I haven’t experienced previously with my music photography and it is tremendously exciting.

One image in particular – at the top right of the set I find particularly evocative and captivating – with the contrasting geometric surfaces strongly evoking Hopper in tone, but also subject, with a sense of isolation and melancholy that I am eager to explore further.

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