Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Conversation with Katrín Elvarsdóttir

Icelandic artist Katrín Elvarsdóttir photographs are quiet and strong. Her work makes the viewer observe, reconsider and reflect. An impeccable sense of light and composition lets her create strong contemporary images that are at once sober and full of magic.

© Katrín Elvarsdóttir

NP: Tell us a little about yourself.

KE: I currently live in Reykjavik, but I was born in the small town of Isafjordur, isolated by the murky mountains in West Fjords of Iceland. When I was 11 years old my family moved to Sweden, where we stayed for 6 years, before moving back. In my early twenties I moved to the U.S to study photography, I graduated from the Art Institute of Boston in 1993. After graduation, I worked as a fashion photographer for some years in the U.S and Europe. I left the commercial photography world several years ago and began devoting my time entirely to personal art projects. My book, Revenants Proximal-Dimension - photographs of Iceland's ominous countryside - published in 2005. I’m currently working on my second book.

© Katrín Elvarsdóttir

NP: How did you discover photography?

KE: I did some photography in high school and found it interesting, but somehow nothing happened until I returned to photography at age 23 when I bought my first 35 mm camera, and became completely hooked. From that point there was no turning back.

© Katrín Elvarsdóttir

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

KE: My inspiration comes to a large extent from observing my surroundings and nearest environment. It also comes from literature, movies and many other art forms. I travel quite a lot and often get inspired by the places I visit, especially things that go unnoticed or fall into the background. I also pick up on mood and try to capture that in my photographs. The atmosphere of various places, people’s faces and lighting plays a big part in most of what I do, whether they are found locations or partly constructed by myself.

© Katrín Elvarsdóttir

NP: How do your projects come about?

KE: They spring forth from moments of inspiration that can hit at any time – I often try to capture a fleeting thought and turn it into something bigger. This can happen in many different ways and circumstances. The Equivocal project, for example, started by one single photograph, a brown sofa and curtains with green Maple leaves outside the window [TV room]. Something in it captured my imagination and I wanted to “see the rest” of that series – before it existed. The idea for the Without a Trace series came from a painting I had in my room as a child – a dark and mysterious painting of Hansel and Gretel walking along a forbidding forest path. In the series I wanted to create a fictional setting that would evoke similar feelings as I remember experiencing looking at the painting as a child. The Simulacra series came from observing the sisters Hanna and Karen, who look somehow very much alike but at the same time also very different. As you look at them side by side their similarity seems to fade in and out of existence in front of you. It’s intriguing. When I started working on that idea the project unfolded, little by little, basically being inspired by the simple idea of similarity – what is similar, what is not?

NP: What's next?

KE: I just received a 6-month artist stipend from the Icelandic government, which I intend to make good use of. In a couple of months I will be exhibiting at the LA Art Museum in Hveragerdi, Iceland. As I mentioned I am working on a new book, which I hope to finish this year. If everything goes according to plan my work will be exhibited in New York City in the fall.

Please visit to see more of Katrín's work.

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