Tag Archives: Bjork

Iceland Airwaves 2013 preview


Last year, as I had done the year before, I went to Iceland Airwaves in Reykjavík to take photos for The405. I said afterwards that it would probably be the last time I did music photography, as my professional career was taking off, and I wan’t able to afford the endless trips to London to cover gigs for the website, much as I had been enjoying them.

This year, The405 were approached by the festival organisers about forming a media partnership with Iceland Airwaves, and it turns out I’ll be able to go along to this year’s festival again, with another photo pass, so I find myself just a few weeks away from another week of music, beer, hotdogs and lopapeysur, ready to rediscover my love for gig photography.

This year, a few local bands that I still haven’t managed to catch at a live performance are playing, including Múm and Emilíana Torrini, and German legends Kraftwerk will be making an appearance too. On top of the scheduled line-up (see Harpa Silfurberg on Friday for The405’s stage) there is the usual array of endless off-venue gigs, where festival goers are crammed, sardine-like, into bookshops, cafés, hostels and bars (and even bus stops) to catch more intimate performances from the visiting artists. A highlight for me from last year was when Ólöf Arnalds played to an entranced Restaurant Reykjavík, and we spotted none other than Björk in the crowd afterwards. It’s not uncommon to find yourself sitting next to, or passing in the street, any of the performers from the bands playing at the festival, and this feeling of involvement that is unique to Iceland is what makes the festival feel so special for me.

If you’re going this year, look out for me in my lopapeysa and stop me and say hi if you recognise me. I’ll no doubt be with my bros from The405: Oli, Tim and Stephen, most of us carrying our cameras around with us, so we shouldn’t be hard to spot.

And if you’re not going, keep an eye out on The405’s website, the Grapevine’s Airwaves minisite, or my own Facebook page for updates from the festival, photo galleries, interviews, sessions and more may well appear, so you can enjoy it as vicariously as you dare.


Arctic circle

I can sense it –
Something important
Is about to happen

If asked, I would find it impossible to name a favourite album, as the answer changes based on my mood, the weather, and the time of day. But there’s no doubt in my mind as to the most important album, one which has arguably shaped the very person I am today.

In the summer holiday of 1993, during the heyday of ITV’s music video show ‘The Chart Show‘, my attention was caught by an unusual sight. A young Icelandic singer was fretting about the odd things humans do, whilst walking through a bizarre fake forest with assorted puppet animals. And what a voice! I was fascinated, and in those days, when MP3 downloads were but a twinkle in the virtual eye of a nascent internet, I had to satisfy my curiosity in the only way possible, by purchasing a CD of Björk’s ‘Debut‘ when it was released.

The album was a first for me in several ways. Trivially, it was my first CD, but more importantly, it planted in me the seed of my obsession with Iceland and Icelandic music. Here was this girl from a strange land that to most people only existed as a blob on school geography maps, and whose capital city had an exotic name, coming out with some of the most compelling and original music I had heard for years. Until that time my choices of listening had (to my eternal shame) sailed with the winds of popular taste; Sting, Annie Lennox, Mike Oldfield, to name but a few; and it took this album to make me realise there was so much more out there.

In 1999, 6 years after Björk screeched and wailed her way into our lives (well, those of us who were unfamiliar with The Sugarcubes), I travelled to Iceland for the first time, with my partner and our 6-month-old son, and I was bewitched. I returned to Iceland as often as time—and my wallet—would allow. Confronted by scenes such as this, how could I help but rediscover my love of photography?

Gullfoss, the Golden Falls
Gullfoss, the Golden Falls

Twitter, the microblogging service, and object of the derision of many of the less forward-thinking members of the traditional press, also had a major part to play in the imminent completion of an 18 year long personal cycle. A set of black and white images from Iceland’s western fjords region, which I took in May 2009, was extremely well received, and shared by several people, both within and outside Iceland, making it my most popular gallery of photographs to date. By maintaining links with the people who had publicised my images, I gained a small but growing network of friends who shared a passion for, or lived in, Iceland.

The resultant increased profile of my work brought me to the attention of Counterfeit magazine, a music website based in Sheffield, who were looking for some photographs of a London-based, Sheffield-born rapper called The Ruby Kid for an interview they were publishing. After completing the shoot I started asking around to see if there were any other websites like Counterfeit, but more local to me, for whom I could do similar work. The amazing networking power of the Internet brought me to The 405, where I was given the opportunity to gain free entry (via photo passes) to endless gigs in London to shoot for reviews or photo-only ‘In Pictures’ features.

It wasn’t long before I realised that we could do something particularly special at The 405 (that’s not to belittle the great work it was already doing), so I suggested trying for passes to the annual Iceland Airwaves festival in October, with a view to publishing a feature focusing on the festival as a whole. The editorial team were all in favour of the idea and, once again through Twitter’s network, I was put in touch with the press officer for the festival, who agreed to issue three passes to us. Only a week or so later, it was announced that there would be two special performances during the festival at Reykjavík’s recently completed opera house, Harpa, by none other than the one person who is still Iceland’s most famous export: Björk Guðmundsdóttir.

And so I find myself on the brink of an adventure that will bring together the holy trinity of music, photography and the magical island of Iceland, and I can trace it all back to one single, circular piece of foil and plastic, imprinted with the DNA of my life as it is today.