Stunning. Inspiring. Slightly wild… and the photos aren’t bad either.
In this second instalment of our continuing look at amazingly talented, attractive, self-taught female Icelandic photographers (yes, there’s more than one), we sat down with Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir, who has dominated Flickr by presenting Iceland, and herself, as art.
Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir is a bit uneasy about her success. She started taking pictures two years ago, and has since become one of the Web’s most popular photographers. During her short professional career she has been named “The Web’s Top Photographer” by the Wall Street Journal, done commercial work for Toyota, stared in a London documentary, and established her own web site and online store to sell prints. All while trying to finish art school and raise her two boys.
IEX: Rebekka, how did all this start?
RG: I really just fell into photography without planning to be a photographer. I worked for three years in a coffee shop and would do pencil drawings when things were slow. I sold a few, and hoped that I would eventually become a painter. But then I discovered that I could make photos that looked like what I wanted to paint, and they didn’t take 4 months to produce! Plus, I was a hopeless painter.
You’re obviously a good photographer – your Flickr site has received well over 4 million hits.
Sometimes I wonder if it’s been too fast. Flickr is a bit of a monster. I owe a lot of my success to the site, but it has also forced me to become “professional” about my work very quickly. When I started posting pictures I was really just messing around, having fun taking shots of myself or whatever came to mind. As the popularity of the site grew and I learned more of my craft, it became more about creating art through photography.
Your subject matter has to help.
Yeah, Iceland is very photogenic! [Laughs.] I know that there were people who came to my site to see more of “me,” but that’s not what I’m all about. If that’s all I was aiming for I could just upload a new photo every day, instead of struggling for weeks to create a work that I’m proud to show off. I create self portraits, but the photos are not about my self. In most photos my face is hidden because the shot is about the vision, the interaction of human and landscape – I’m more of a prop. Plus, I’m there when inspiration strikes, and I don’t have to spend time conveying my idea to someone else, hoping they do what I need them to do – I already know what I want.
And you know what other people want…
People tell me all the time that they’re visiting Iceland because of my pictures. Ironically, my landscapes have been almost dismissed by my teachers… they’re not “art.” I disagree. When you live in a place like Iceland, how could you look around and not want to photograph it all? Living here makes it easy to see the art in everyday life… the key is to capture something that your eyes usually miss. Otherwise, why take a picture?
So what do you do when you’re not taking amazing photos?
[Long pause, then laughs.] Nothing. Well, I read and knit, and sleep sometimes, but free time is a rare treat. Between my two boys and school and taking photos, that’s about it.
Don’t worry Rebekka, that’s quite enough for us.