Icelandic photographer Halldóra Kristín
Halldóra Kristín is an Icelandic photographer whose work immediately caught our eye. The rawness of the Icelandic nature and beautiful portraits gives us a feeling of almost touching the island ourselves. If you haven’t been to Icelandic yet, now is the time!
When did you first find your interest for photography?
I always find this question quite hard to answer accurately. Ever since I was a child, I have had a rich imagination and a strong sense for characterization. I was writing before I could read and I remember when I used to sit at my grandparents‘ kitchen table writing stories and illustrating them. I would ask my grandmother to spell out the words to me that I didn‘t yet know how to read but that I knew would create my story. Because of this, I still have books about talking toothbrushes and poems about guardian angels that I came up with. All my life I have been surrounded by creative people and individuals that have been more than ready to discuss life and it‘s many questions. That has truly shaped me and made me stronger as an individual.
I am very thankful for my mom for keeping all of the masses of drawings that I did when I was a child and I regularly go through my collection, which instantly puts a smile on my face. It was soon clear that people captured my attention and I was more interested in them than other children. As a child, I didn‘t constantly carry a pencil and paper around but I was always using my fingers to draw pictures of the people that I was talking to, almost without realizing what I was doing. I sought after the company of adults and tried to understand their conversations, drew a lot of portraits and wrote passionate poems. I always got a perfect grade in visual arts when I was in elementary school.
Every day I was fighting a battle with my need for perfection but while drawing, I managed to relax. I even tried to put away my eraser so that I wouldn‘t give up, even if the drawing didn‘t end up the way that I saw it in my head. I learned that if you give things a chance, it is possible to fix them, shape them, and the imperfection is also very interesting. There‘s something so emotional about imperfection.
As the time went be, I was slowly drawn towards photography. It is a way to create, document life - both imperfect moments and the picture perfect. When I graduated from college my family gave me my first professional camera and soon after I was hooked. I do still write and paint when I have the time but ever since I got that camera, photography has been my biggest way of expression.
Do you have any training or are you self-taught?
After college I went as an Au Pair to Italy. There I had the time and freedom to really go all in with my photography. I did a lot of street style photos and played with the magical landscape that surrounds Como. It was then that I realized that all I wanted to do was taking photos and play with what I observed. When I finished in Italy, I went to Denmark where I studied photography in Kunsthojskolen in Holbæk. After my training there, I went back to Iceland and moved to Reykjavík for the first time. I studied photography while I studied art history at the University of Iceland. After two years there I craved for something more than Iceland could give me. I applied and got a spot in the IED in Milano. After my time there I moved back to Iceland and enrolled in the University of Akureyri where I studied journalism. I finished my bachelors’ degree a year ago but by that time I had already gotten my photography business rolling and now I've been working solely as a photographer for 4 years.
My studies have taught me a lot. Mostly, they kept me serious about my art and gave me the tools while encouraging me to try something new. What has given me most though, is practice and playing in the world of photography.
Are most of your images spontaneous or well planned?
Through my company I am often hired to capture something that is well planned but I always try to leave enough space be creative and spontaneous. Outside of those projects I love capturing a special moment and the things that life throws at me. I think that if you plan too much ahead of time, you unconsciously build a frame around your creativity. Therefore, I want to create something more special by capturing the randomness of life.
What other photographer's work do you admire?
The first to influence me was probably Ragnar Axelsson, I love his work and how he portraits the north, both nature and the people in it. I can always remember the first time I saw some of those photos in an exhibition at a festival in my hometown. I found myself going again, and again to the exhibition just to stare at his work. The photos were taken in Greenland and behind them all, you can feel a strong story. I was able to see some of the most stunning photos I’ve ever seen where the cold and wind are an almost a constant factor. Those photos were a part of the book, Face of the North. The book features about one hundred powerful images taken over the past decade and a half. The book has a strong human focus and is triton B&W. Through the images the reader gets exposed to some of the vanishing lifestyles in the North Atlantic and the struggles of its inhabitants.
Ragnar's work made me want to capture photos that make people think, think about their behaviour and lifestyles. I have always seen life within photo frames and for that I am grateful. I want to be able to capture moments that make the viewer wonder and I’m used to seeing the strength of the nature in people’s faces. In that, RAX is fantastic and that is why he’s one of my biggest inspirations. He is able to use what I love, work with the union between people and their nature.
Later I got to know and enjoy more photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Philippe Halsman, Mary Ellen Mark, Irving Penn, Elliot Erwin and especially Annie Leibovitz. I also met Steve McCurry once and that is the closest I’ve gotten to being star struck. I asked him to sign a book of his that I had with me. But today the list can go on and on, so many great photographers influence me every day. They are many, all amazing and all so dear to me.
What motto do you live by?
I really try to enjoy each day and seize the day - especially after my daughter was born. Honestly, I am a complete workaholic, a perfectionist, and I'm always thinking about the next step. But recently I've been focusing my energy on enjoying the fruits of life and share as many moments as I can with my family and friends - and that means really being in the moment, not planning the next photo shoot in my head! That’s why it’s also very important for me to travel. I try to see new places in each week and I love to be on the road. When I travel, I do most of my personal photography. Car rides and vacations are very frequent and I love seeing new places with my little family.
How was it growing up on Iceland?
I don't know if you are aware that two thirds of the nation lives in the area in, and surrounding, the capital. I grew up far away from Reykjavík, in a rural area called Aðaldalur, which is a valley in the North. I loved growing up there, which is evident as I've now settled with my family there and plan on raising my kids here. There were about 100 kids in my school, we were four in my class - two boys, two girls. You can see how it's easy to become creative in such a place. Most people in the area were farmers, but that was before the tourist industry bloomed. My dad was a duty officer for over 20 years but is now the head of the fire department in the county. My mom was, and still is, a teacher in the local elementary school. I grew up playing in the lava fields that surround my home and flow through the valley.
As I've already mentioned, I wrote, drew and painted but I also played the piano, was in a marimba band and I used every opportunity to go horse riding. I had all the time in the world to play with my best friend who lived on the next farm and I got three younger siblings - so I was never bored.
Tell us something about Iceland that most people don't know?
There are so many facts that we have never thought of as being strange but they are in the eyes of a traveller that comes here. What I think we Icelanders forget too easily is our heritage and culture. Not so long ago our society was a distant dot on a map, remote and secluded. I think that really defines us today, even though most people have a hard time imagining how our grandparents went about their life. Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe and a hundred years ago half of the nation still lived in turf houses.
What's is your favourite Icelandic:
The Christmas beef steak dinner (caramelized potatoes and more included). Raised on my godfathers farm and cooked by my parents.
My favourite drink would be the Christmas Ale (Jólaöl), which is a soda drink that we drink during the holidays. Yes, I am a complete Christmas nutter!
Rub23 in Akureyri.
Blómasetrið - Kaffi Kyrrð in Borgarnes.
Hirðfíflin (second hand store) in Vopnafjörður.
Place to visit?
I can't choose between the East fjords! And I'm always on my way to explore the West fjords.
My grandma, Halldóra Jónsdóttir and her sisters, Rósa Sigrún Jónsdóttir and Áslaug Anna Jónsdóttir!
The incredible artist, Erró.
Geysir or Farmers Market.
Taking little trips around Iceland with my family and exploring new places with my camera. But it's always nice to relax at home between the trips and perhaps go horse riding.