Iceland Above and Below By Hans Strand – Book Review

February 23, 2015 ·

Michael Williams

A 11738

Iceland – Above & Below

Foreword by Art Wolfe

Photography by Hans Strand

Triplekite Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-957 6345-8-9

Iceland Above & Below is first and foremost simply a beautiful book. This large coffee table volume represents many years and many trips to Iceland by Swedish photographer Hans Strand. It is a book of images with very little technical information about each one. Beautifully printed with a wrap-around color cover in a hardbound binding, this is a volume that screams pick me up and look at me when it is resting on the table.

In his brief foreword, Art Wolfe notes that Strand uses a digital Hasselblad medium format camera to create his images and that’s about it for technical info from either Wolfe or Strand. Wolfe notes that while he has traveled the world crafting images, Strand has concentrated on visiting Iceland over and over seeking to learn more about this fascinating land of volcanoes, pastures, mountains, shores, and icebergs.

When Hans Strand begins his page and one half story, he notes that he first visited Iceland in 1995 and that as of June 2014 he has been there about 20 times. He states, “The images in this book are my homage to one of the most magical countries in the world. It has been a challenge, trying to do justice to Iceland’s complex landscape through my camera lens. After 19 years I realize that I have only scratched the surface of what is possible.”

Icy Coast, Jökulsarlon, June 2013
Icy Coast, Jökulsarlon, June 2013

Mastery of the grand landscape is clear when images such as Icy Coast, Jökulsarlon, are presented to the viewer. There is so little text involved that this is a book to be viewed rather than read. Images such as this—printed large across two pages—make it easy to study and get lost in, almost feeling the cold water while looking out at the horizon.

Bruarfoss, June 2014
Bruarfoss, June 2014

Perhaps a bit warmer, but nonetheless powerful image from June 2014, Bruarfoss evokes the flow of the water through a series of falls and rocks, but is still very accessible and recognizable.

Hvitarvatn, July 2009
Hvitarvatn, July 2009

Hvitarvatn is one of the far more abstract images that make up about one half of the book. Though he acknowledges suffering from occasional bouts of motion sickness, Hans Strand presents many aerial photographs that force the viewer to stop and imagine themselves looking down from a plane if they wish to interpret the image literally, or merely to gaze upon an abstract concept and enjoy the sinuous shapes and forms as they appear on the page.

River Arch, Landeyjarsandur, July 2009
River Arch, Landeyjarsandur, July 2009

The last image I’ll show here is another abstract, though with a more descriptive name, River Arch, Landeyjarsandur. Again more of an image of light, shadow and form, rather than a commonly recognized landscape, this aerial photograph taken in July 2009 shows Strand’s efforts to present his subject in an otherworldly way, causing the viewers to pause and reflect on the images before them.

Iceland Above & Below is a large book that will provide many hours of viewing pleasure to those willing to open themselves to the images it conveys. It is not a technical or how-to manual, or even one that offers behind-the-scenes commentary or tales of how many hours the photographer spent waiting for the right wave to crash upon the rocks, or for the unsuspecting animal to turn the correct direction to face the lens. It is far beyond the typical traveler’s coffee table book.

Recommended.

Available to purchase from: Triplekite Publishing

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Mike Williams, is a hobbyist photographer, sometimes art show participant, and works as the head librarian of the Central Library in downtown Indianapolis. A passionate technology explorer and early adopter his first digital camera was the Chinon ES-3000 in the mid 1990s. He and his wife Debbie enjoy traveling with their cameras as much as they can and hope to someday attend a Luminous Landscape workshop.

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