In 2004, 2006, and 2010 photographers Paula Chamlee and Michael A. Smith loaded their camera gear and lm—several hundred pounds of it—into their old Land Rover and shipped it to Iceland, where they travelled and photographed throughout the country for months at a time. Although Chamlee and Smith photographed in many popular places, such as Jökulsárlón, they also made many photographs far from the beaten trail. Their photographs in these books represent each photographer’s personal view of the extraordinary island country of Iceland.
In this two-volume set of books, Chamlee’s 8×10-inch photographs (along with one 4×5) are reproduced in Volume I, and Smith’s 8×20-inch photographs and 8x10s in color are reproduced in the long-format Volume II. A foreword by the noted Icelander Ómar Þ. Ragnarsson is included in both volumes as is the essay, “This is Not a Landscape,” by Jens Erdman Rasmussen, former Curator of Photography at the National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen. Chamlee and Smith have each written prefaces for their respective volumes. Also included in Volume I is a DVD with Chamlee’s lm, Elements.
Ómar Þ. Ragnarsson writes in his Foreword, “Smith’s and Chamlee’s photographs are not the usual pictures of Iceland you might see in magazines or on calendars. Their photographs seem timeless . . . there is always something new to discover each time you look at them. There is a special energy in Iceland, and this is an energy that Chamlee’s and Smith’s art both draws on and conveys. The distant views and the close-up details are of Iceland for sure, but they are also about much more—the rhythms of life and nature everywhere.”
And Jens Erdman Rasmussen writes in his essay, “In an uncompromising way, Paula Chamlee and Michael A. Smith tell us about how we perceive the world rather than show us the world itself. Exactly that fact makes their photographs very di erent from the pictures that usually surround us. What you see in these photographs is not a landscape. It is a landscape seen and heard by Paula Chamlee and Michael A. Smith. Now it’s up to you to look at them and listen to them. Should you choose to see them only as landscapes, only as images of the world, I can hardly blame you; who would not dream of standing where the two photographers have stood, and of seeing what they have seen? But try anyway to take their eyes with you into your own world and see as they have seen.”
Paula Chamlee returned to college in the 1980s majoring in the visual arts to finish a degree she had begun in the 1960s in the performing arts. She earned a B.F.A. in painting in 1988. During that year, she discovered photography and quickly found direct involvement with the world outside the studio to be irresistible. Since 1988 she has traveled extensively, making photographs both in the United States and abroad. Chamlee has been the recipient of several grants, including a major grant from the Leeway Foundation for “Excellence in Photography.” Her photographs are in numerous collections, both public and private in the United States and abroad. She is collected in nearly forty museums in the United States, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, and Library of Congress. She has taught workshops in photography in the United States, Austria, Germany, Tuscany, England, France, Iceland, and Australia. Her seventh monograph was published in the fall of 2015.
Jens Erdman Rasmussen, formerly Curator of Photography at the National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen, is now a private curator. He lives in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Ómar Þ. Ragnarsson is a pilot, an entertainer, and Iceland’s foremost defender of the natural environment. When not traveling throughout Iceland he lives in Reykjavík.