Philadelphian Takes Another Look at Iceland
Written for LÖGBERG-HEIMSKRINGLA, THE ICELANDIC PAPER, David Jon Fuller writes about John Welsh’s experience photographing Iceland.
LÖGBERG-HEIMSKRINGLA, THE ICELANDIC PAPER, August 2004
By David Jon Fuller
John Welsh hopes his latest work will encourage people to see Iceland in a new light. Welsh, a Philadelphia photographer, has made six trips to Iceland over the last two years, capturing the country’s landscape. Welsh’s forte since embarking on his career in 1987 was taking pictures of people, first in fashion, then photojournalism. I never became a hard-core journalist, he says, but I still think in terms of telling a story.
During a trip to Iceland, he says on his website, I knew I had to return. The strange yet incredible scenes I found in Iceland’s empty spaces fed my desire to explore.
The result was 7,000 photographs, from which he has drawn an exhibit, Iceland: Another Take, and an upcoming book by the same name. The exhibit will appear at Scandinavian Fest in Edison, New Jersey on September 5, and feature 25 photos.
He plans to publish the book himself, aiming to include 50 photos. The choice to self-publish was made so I could keep the content true to my experiences, he says. Most books on Iceland I have seen contain spectacular scenes and are photographed very well. My experiences are very different and I think this is the strength of the work.
Welsh notes that his greatest challenge during this project was probably what Iceland is famous for: the unpredictable weather. I learned not only to deal with it, but to use it to my advantage (even though it can be tough on photographic equipment).
That unpredictability rewarded him with a few surprises, such as the topmost photo on this page. [It] happened during a stormy day when I was near Thingvallavatn, though at the time the area was new to me and I was unaware the lake was nearby. After about an hour or so of driving along a twisted road, the road suddenly straightened and the lake appeared on the horizon. Almost perfectly timed, the storm halted and a single beam of sunlight broke through the clouds and illuminated one of two islands in the lake. This lasted long enough for me to stop the car, load the camera with a fresh roll of film and fire off a few shots, probably a minute or two at most. Then the sky darkened, the light faded and the rain started again.
Welsh plans to return to Iceland, perhaps this winter, mainly to visit friends there. As for a sequel to Iceland: Another Take, he speculates: Hawaii. Why not take the same shooting style and apply it to a tropical island that’s also volcanic It may make a good counterpart to the current work.