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About Focus Westfjords

Photo: Baldur Pan
Photo: Baldur Pan
The Focus Westfjords Project is an attempt of two friends and photographers, Agúst Atlason (from Ísafjörður in the Westfjords of Iceland) and Matt Willen (from Pennsylvania in the United States) to show and document the nature of life in the Westfjords, as it is now, and some of the distinctive characteristics of what it is to live in the region. The project came about a year ago, when Matt was visiting the Westfjords with the idea of doing a photo-documentary on changes in the fishing villages in Iceland that have occurred as a result of the qouta system of fisheries management. During that trip, he met Agúst riding his bicycle on the dock in Ísafjörður. They began to talk about photography, had dinner together, and began talking about working together on a project.

As the year progressed, they thought that it would be important (especially in light of the fact that the Westfjords is such a little known region of Iceland and in light of the way Iceland and Icelanders have been portrayed in the global media as a resultof the country´s recent economic crisis) to do a project that simply aimed to present and make a record of life in Westfjords as it is perceived by an insider and an outsider. Matt visited Ísafjörður for a week in March 2009 so that he and Agúst could sort out the project and is spending the month of May 2009 in Iceland working with Agúst. He plans to return for a month or so in September, January 2010, and again in the spring of 2010 so that the two might continue to collaborate on the endeavor. In the end, the two are looking to create an exhibition of photographs that will display in Iceland as well as in the United States. Ideally, they are aiming to do a book that grows out of this website and the exhibition.

The project has to date been supported by generous assistance from in Ísafjörður, which has provided hosting for the project website and blog; Elizabethtown College in the United States, which has provided the endeavor with a grant to make possible work on the initial phase of the project; Menningarráð Vestfjarða generously supported us for 750.000 ISK and we are grateful for that, such a support is amazing to get; and by the University Center of the Westfjords, which has provided them with invaluable contacts, access to facilities, and bountiful good will. To these institutions, to the people of the Westfjords, and to our families, we are indebited for this opportunity.  

┴g˙st G. Atlason

Lived in the Westfjords for most of his life. Ágúst has been photographing since 1990 with few breaks. Passionate about his home turf, and has been photographing the Westfjords for 3 years now. Works as a multimedia designer in the computer company Snerpa in Ísafjörður, specializing in web design. He is married to Hrefna and has 2 children, a 11 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. Ágúst hopes this project will benefit the Westfjords and tell a unique story from a very small and remote part of the world.

Matt Willen

Matt Willen has been under construction (more than this website) for many years, and still isn´t finished. Currently, he teaches non-fiction writing courses at Elizabethtown College, lives on a farm, has two boys, and pursues his photography passionately. He is on sabbatical from his job for the next 16 months, so that he can work on this project. He is doing this project because he thinks there is nothing more important that one can do in life than connect with people, because he likes the Westfjords, because he wants to do something that might be of benefit to others, and because it feels right.