Shally walked out of her bedroom and down the stairs of her family’s home – the home she had lived in for most of her life. I watched her from outside the front door and knew that something was up. All morning, she had been a bundle of joy, relaxed, friendly and so full of conversation. But now, she looked like a totally different woman. She stood, holding her sari in her hand trying to compose herself but I could see she was fighting a losing battle. She had one last act to complete before she would forever leave this household. One last act before her mother and father would no longer be her guardians. One last act before she was to be a married woman. She walked to the door, tears in her eyes and grabbed the rice that was offered to her and threw it over her shoulders onto the sari that her mother was holding up behind her. The tears symbolised sadness to a part of Shally’s life that was now finished, but also happiness about the life that she was just about to start. It was a beautiful moment to share in and all I could think of was that this must be the most exhilarating (and perhaps most terrifying) experience in Shally’s life. I walked over to her as she climbed into the car, smiled at her and said that she was doing wonderfully and that I would see her at her wedding. She smiled, said thank you, shut the door and we drove to see her get married to the love of her life, Rahoul.
In around 2002, I first heard of this Icelandic band called Sigur Ros. I couldn’t pronounce half of the names of their songs and I definitely didn’t know what they were singing about. But it didn’t matter, their music transcended words, they seemed to reach in and grasp at the core of me – every time I listened to them, I felt something. I obsessively collected everything that they released and went to every show they played in Australia. I fell in love with them, their music and through that, Iceland.
When Mike and Cecila asked me to photograph their wedding in Sweden last June, it seemed that Iceland was literally closer than it had ever been. Kristen and I decided that this was finally our chance to go. And ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get back.
Iceland is actually like no other country on earth. It’s one of the youngest landmasses in the world having only existed for around 20-30 million years and the closest thing I can compare it to is the south island of New Zealand, except more rugged and more volatile. When you’re traveling through Iceland, you’re probably moments away from death if you make a wrong decision and it doesn’t feel like a country where you can take risks and get away with it. The people are intelligent, educated and progressive, and for a country of that size, they’re impressively high-achieving in music and the arts (plus they have the highest per-capita winners of Nobel Prizes of anywhere in the world!) and I would gladly live there.
We knew that we wanted to experience Iceland in all of this glory so we hired an insanely small and very uncomfortable campervan – also known as Billy Idol (you might be able to see why soon). We traveled the entire ring road around the country and included a foray into the West Fjords nearly dying only twice – I’d say that’s a pretty good road-trip in Icelandic terms (by the way, the Icelandic seem completely non-plussed by any of this, we’re cruising along at 40km/h in our 4WD campervan on a dirt/snow covered road and some kid whizzes past at 90km in a 2 door hatchback). We had one tyre explosion, one near slip off the edge of an icy cliff and many wonderful memories that we will keep for a lifetime. I’d say it’s still very much my favourite place on the planet.
We wanted to document what we saw differently to all of the usual travel photos. We wanted a fresh way to see things, a way to give new perspective to us and to others. We decided that we’d only use a tilt shift lens – sometimes changing the equipment you use to see things is all you need. We planned to have an exhibition of these images at some point last year but with things being the way they have been in the last 9 months (ie. a little bit crazy), we just haven’t been able to find the emotional energy to invest in it. Plus, we’re so excited about what we saw, we just want to share it with you so you can hopefully be inspired in the way that we were.
This 800 pixel wide blog just does’t do justice to the images so you’ll have to click on the below two links, they’ll take you to two slideshows. One is 1200 pixels wide and the other 1600 pixels – choose which one based on how good your internet connection is (it’s about 25MB all up at 1600px) and your screen resolution. If you can get onto a computer to look at this post, I can guarantee it’ll look much better. Just as an aside, neither Kristen nor I can remember who took each photo but I’m pretty confident that Kristen took most of them. But I’m not perturbed, the images of Iceland are firmly implanted in my memory and no camera can represent my heart and memory on the day we left this hauntingly beautiful country.
This isn’t really anything new or unique but I received an image request from a large multi-national news website.
“I’m the Associate Editor of *********. I’m currently working on a photo post of emotional brides and grooms and I would love to include this shot of yours (third down). I will give you photo credit of course and can link to your website as well. Let me know if this is OK by you!”
I truly believe in supporting people around us and always provide images free of charge to small organisations, charities, NGOs and other industry vendors and sole traders. But when a huge multinational corporation prefers to funnel the profits of your hard work into their pockets rather than yours, they’re going to receive an email like this.
Thanks for your message however I must politely decline your request.
********* is an internationally recognised brand which makes large amounts of revenue and I must admit that am a little disappointed by your request. In my mind, providing images free of charge to an organisation such as yourself further devalues an already devalued industry whereby large swathes of society believe photographers are able to survive off the credits that they are offered on websites – believe it or not, our bills can’t be paid with that! If you are happy to pay a small licensing fee, I would gladly offer the image for your use.
I really do appreciate that you felt my image was suitable for use (and thank you for getting in touch to request it rather than simply pilfering it as others have done in the past) however I believe very strongly that photographers deserve to be paid when their hard work is used elsewhere, especially when other people are profiting greatly from it. I hope that makes sense and please get in touch if there’s anything you would like to discuss further.
I know that many of you photographers receive requests like this and the decision to share your images or not is completely up to you. If you feel like what you get back from the exposure is worth giving your images away for free, go ahead and do so – I’ve done so in the past and will continue to do so in the future! But at some point, we must acknowledge that there are people and organisations out there who are just out to exploit us for their own benefit. They’re the ones we just need to look at with an angry face and say “go away!”