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The Artful Dodger on  Rafn Hafnfjörð

November 5, 2010

The time has come (the walrus said) to switch up the topics. I shall be replacing Dating with pop-or-no-pop-culture versions of the Artz and, perhaps, stumbling upon an occasional artful date or pair of shoes in the process. A Girl can dream…

Leave us give it a whirl.

Recently, while visiting Iceland, I fortuitously skated upon Rafn Hafnfjörð’s Environmental Photography. Now, I’m a chick who really digs Environmental Photography and ol’ Raffn’ got a stellar combination showcasing the elements of water-also one of my best things.

Brief Bio: Hafnfjörð, (born over to Hafnarfjarðar on the Southwest Coast of Iceland) claims his main purpose, with photography, is to promote his Country. He has exhibited at Montréal (and if you take anyway anything from this piece, let it be the correct pronunciation, ‘Mun-tree-all’) World’s Fair, the Reykjavik Art Museum, and even scored first prize in a competition for best photograph promoting Iceland in 1990. So, clearly, dude’s done what he set out to do.

Environmental Photography is tough to do well because it tends to be one of those mediums which has been ‘done’ into the ground…so to speak. And, while I can respect Hafnfjörð’s attempts at capturing lava formations, plants, moss, etc., I’ve been over it for about ten years. Almost everyone interested in the Art has their favourite sense of environment and mine is water. So, Hafnfjörð’s water-steam-ice photographs, fabulously fascinating to me and I suspect it’s due to water’s tidy-rather-than-timely transformation into it’s three elements.

With water, steam, and ice, there are only so many seconds a photographer has in which to capture and portray his or her experience. Water usually allows only one wave or motion for a photographer to either anticipate or for him/her to shoot a rapid series. Both shooting methods leave the final project for compilation. Steam is the same, but photographed in more of a split second as there is usually less information to gather than water. Ice is another majestical photographic form all together. Ice allots both the photographer and the viewer all the information required for minutes, days, and possibly weeks, with slight changes. The trick with Ice is a moment, a shard, or a glisten to trigger a reaction to photograph. Therefore, even though the Artist is given more time with their subject, unlike water and steam, the photographic eye is still inclined to capture data within seconds. (Do we all remember how to pronounce Montréal?)

In my opinion, it’s not incredibly difficult to make close-up photography look intriguing. Close-up photography’s sole purpose is to tease the viewer’s eye and force the brain in contemplation as to the ‘meaning’ of the photograph. To enhance the engulfing/sliding tones of ice, Rafn Hafnfjörð uses Large Format cameras to showcase the photographs’ graininesses. Large Format film and techniques were made for capturing architecture and close-up shots. Plus, anyone who has the patience to spend hours (In my world, anything over 45 seconds=HOURS) configuring LF Math gets tuppence in my book.

Additionally, ice in all of it’s forms is a stellar look because the contrast works largely more often than not. Shards of grain and water frozen together is something that never goes out of style because, quite frankly, who is going to argue with Momma Nature’s creations?

Nevertheless, in my humble opinion, it takes a pretty creative type of Artist to portray their own sense of contrast into water-steam-ice photographs. Once established, the Artist has also created his/her own sense of context. Rafn Hafnfjörð’s got a good thing going on with his ice photography as he chooses close-up subjects which counter-contrast themselves. Cracks within white ice, developed around weathering yellow rocks, both encompassed by the bottom of broken black puddle makes for a ravenously startling subject.

In addition to the elements, Hafnfjörð’s developed his own working theories regarding composition. His subjects are framed to stand almost comfortably right-side-up or upside-down. ‘Almost’ is true as Rafn’s photographs have a series of delicious little details about them that direct the viewers’ confirmations as to which ends are inevitably up or down. And while it may sound like beans, it’s pretty hard to accomplish…subtly.

So, as a fellow Photog, I have to give the man snaps. Rafn Hafnfjörð’s Environmental Photography won him a place in promoting his Country and it’s elemental beauty. (Although, having just traveled through Iceland, I was seriously lacking in BAD photographic choices.) I’d continue to commend Mr. Hafnfjörð on his appreciation for his Medium, ability to distinctly frame his own photographs, and lovingly contrasting water with it’s Brother elements. In short, I would hang his work in my WC and I don’t reserve that location for just anybody!


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