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© Kiliii Yuyan

The first time I set foot in Iceland I was overcome by the sweeping vistas of volcanoes and waterfalls. The North is composed on such an enormous scale that it’s hard not to shoot dramatic landscapes. Even so, as I’ve grown as an artist, the process of taking photographs has become one of personal exploration. 

Shooting Íslandia was like exploring as a child does, looking at the texture of ice and the lichens rather than the grand vistas. I spent time playing on the landscape, skating across the ice in my shoes or eating lingonberries on the tundra. Inevitably this ends in me slowing down, enduring the discomfort of being in nature. That’s when I begin to actually feel the photographs. When I rush from place to place with a car the photography is too easy. I miss the chance opportunities that happen when I’m immersed in the land– the sudden snowstorm, the fleeting fog, the momentary pause of an Arctic tern. My favorite photographs come from a place of uneasy curiosity.

As an indigenous person, my whole life I’ve been taught to look for the stories of the land. Finding those stories requires paying attention to what’s directly around me, the tracks and signs of the living world. I’ve been told so many stories of the mythical era before the first people, and when I look at Iceland, I see ancient mysteries and stories trapped within the ice and hidden under the moss. My favorite photographs are full of mystery, and tell each person a different story.

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