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Matt Willen Matt Willen | Wednesday 3. Juneá2009

Getting back to it

I made it back to the US just fine, in fact better than just fine as I had a great weekend of celebrating 50 with some great people.  Thanks to everyone who sent their wishes. Now I am back in PA, where I have been puzzling over how to continue the blog and the project from this end. What I really want to be doing is going out in the field, talking to people, taking photographs, and then staying up till late at night with Gústi pulling it all together. But, that is not the reality of the situation, and the question becomes how to make best use of the weeks before I get back to Iceland.

I have a load of photographs that I still need to sift through and process, and I´ll post those as I work through them. Today I just have some scenics from our trip to Foss. Now I have the leisure for some experimentation too. We also need a map of Iceland and the Westfjords and the towns in the area to help readers locate themselves. So there is that to work on. I got a copy of the Gisli Saga, as well, which is one of the sagas from the Westfjords, and I am not certain how that will work in, but it will. Plus there is the study of the language. So there is plenty to do practically. On the other side, Gústi has got a couple of more profiles set up, and some further work on the website. But he has a full time job, and I am on sabbatical, so we make things work as they can work.

A couple of things came up during my visit. Gústi suggested that it was important that I spend some time writing on my visit in retrospect. Indeed, in one of the first blogs that I wrote I qouted Eudora Welty, who said, "If exposure is essential, still more so is the reflection. Insight doesn´t happen at the click of a moment, like a lucky snapshot, but comes in its own time and from nowhere but within." So I am inclined to use the blog over the next few weeks to reflect, and several things have presented themselves to me in the few days I have been back, which I will comment on in due time.  One of my friends asked me about what surprised me the most during the past few weeks. That seems a good way to begin to think about things in retrospect. Readers can offer suggestions as well.

The other thing that Gústi mentioned to me is that he hasn´t seen many photographs of where I live, what it looks like, how it is different. There is a series of photographs that I wanted to make, that we discussed over the past few weeks, and those are of the places where people meet, the shops, the restaurants, the stores (I am particularly fascinated by the difference between the visual effect of the cereal aisle in my local grocery and that of the local grocery in Ísafjörður). So perhaps Gústi and I should talk about trying to do some comparative work while he is there and I am here. After all, learning about others is in fact important to learning about yourself.

So that said, I am going to close today by just noting something about the project that really stands out to me, and then comment on it later. I am very surprised by the willingness of the people that we spoke to, that we visited, and whose time we used, to speak with us, on every occasion, and allow us to photograph them. Moreover, I am surprised as well, by the way that people on the streets and around town seemed mostly unconcerned if we were taking their photo or photos of their boats and the places where they work. I guess my surprise come a lot from the fact that this lack of concern stands in sharp contrast to many of my experiences in the US where I have encountered considerable suspicion and resistance in similar circumstances (of course, not all circumstances, but often enough to make its absence stand out).  There is much to say, I suppose, about that contrast, but I will leave that for later.



Phoebe, Friday 12 June | 13:15

Happy Birthday! The photos of Iceland are spectacular. God, I'd love to go there and paint. I got a photography commission, two actually, in the past three days. So, I guess I'm going to get to learn about lighting after all. One is of a new momma and her baby girl. One of my kids from the youth group, just on the other side of graduation. I'm so proud of her that she allowed this child to live and is keeping the baby. The other is corporate, a law firm in town.

My greatest challenge now is figuring out pricing for both. The shoot is the least time consuming part in my experience. Any free council? Please reply in email. The shoot of Kerry Fraser is approaching also and I need to practice lighting for that so there's no time like the present.

Your photos are so breathtaking. Even the portraits inside. They're fabulous. Did you light for any of them? The old guy in B&W? Be in touch. I could use some brainstorming.
Best, Phoebe


Corey Bornmann, Thursday 25 June | 12:24

Great site Matt. Your trip look amazing and you are really a great photographer. I am really blown away by iceland and how beautiful it is.

Enjoy your summer my friend,

Corey Bornmann

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