Iceland: Where primordial Earth still exists An Leica-driven journey by Yasuhisa Ishii

“There is nothing there – but in a sense, that is all there should be.”

This was my answer every time someone asked me about my impression from the trip to Iceland. It still has that something of the primordial Earth which we have lost in big cities. The far away Iceland had been chosen as the location for the next portfolio shoot for some time. 5400 miles from here to Tokyo, if you went in a straight line.

I have always had a special affinity for Northern Europe. That was the main reason I decided to go on this trip, but there was something else about it. Somehow, I felt that it would become a big turning point in my photographic career. Alone, with just that feeling and my Leica in hand, I set out for Iceland. I chose the Leica M Monochrom and several M lenses as the main equipment for my journey. For monochrome work, there is no better camera with which to capture a scene in a way that is simple, unique, and capable of stirring emotion. This camera is very important to me. It is what I have come to use in all of my works, and I always reach for it without hesitation.

For many years the Leica M Monochrom has been my most beloved partner. During this trip, the M lens Summilux 1.4/28, APO-Summicron 2/50, and APO-Summicron 2/75 were the main crew. They all did a great job and performed accurately under low light conditions. As the proof of our journey, my camera has many scratches and marks on it, but that makes it even more dear to my heart. The immense attractiveness of Leica as a tool is that it has the amazing power to connect people. I have met a lot of fascinating people through my Leica and it has definitely changed my life. For that, I am sincerely grateful. It may be because my home country of Japan is a small island nation, but to me the Earth seems simply enormous.

In Iceland, everywhere you go, you can feel the Earth in its candid nakedness. The sharp-edged cliffs, the cracks and rifts in the ground (called “gyau”) stretch out as far as you dare to go. Except for occasional little signs that say “Warning”, there is nothing here to obstruct your view. It is tremendously simple and pure. The flashy instructions for self-preservation, the endless shifting of blame in the big city – who on Earth is all of it for? This place invites you to rethink even the most common things.

When looking at the birds flying freely in the skies of Iceland, I suddenly thought: “If humans could grow wings on their backs, would they obtain some greater freedom?” Likely, the answer to that is “no”. Not knowing what to do with this abundance of freedom, one day, humanity would surely crash down into the earth. As long as we continue to hurt each other, we cannot learn to successfully handle our freedom. An animal which grace speaks for itself, the horse, also symbolized this freedom. The Icelandic horse is an indescribably lovely, petite creature with a gentle personality and a distinctive mane. I was fascinated by that horse. Particularly striking in its austere surroundings, the horse became one of the main themes of this journey for me.

It was a four day road trip. Thanks to the midnight sun of the white nights, I continued to drive the whole day, and probably travelled around 1,000 miles. I tried going off the main ring road. That’s how I found a place that made me feel like I was all alone in the world. There was something terrifying, and also something nostalgic about it – a very strange feeling, as if something unseen had wrapped itself around me. I do not remember what it was like to be inside my mother’s womb, but it must have been a similar experience. In that moment, I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture.

I wish I could photograph this land when it is covered in snow, but I would probably need the help from someone local to do it. I am already looking forward to the kind of pictures I will take on my next visit here. There are countless beautiful scenes throughout the world. And looking at the same scene, people don’t necessarily see the same things. A person’s unique character is inevitably reflected in the pictures he or she takes, and I suppose you could say it also reveals something about the photographer’s life. If people could feel something of my character from the pictures I have taken, that would make me very happy.

-Yasuhisa Ishii

Credits:

Having been evaluated by renowned photographers at home and abroad, I then received an evaluation from Leica Japan, and in 2015 it was the official start of my career as a photographer. After that, I was evaluated by Leica AG for my Iceland project. From now on, I will continue my journey with my beloved Leica at my side.

Acknowledgments and Thank You’s:

To Mr. Herbie Yamaguchi and Mr. Thorsten Ovargaard, who gave me my very first award. To Tomio Seike, who taught me so many things. To those people at Leica Camera AG and at Leica Camera Japan that supported me, and the family and friends and Ania (Kotenova Ganna who helped translating this article) that support me every day, I am sincerely grateful.

Biography:

Born in Tokyo, Japan, in 1980. Medical doctor, Photographer. Began photography with Leica M8 in 2009. Having been evaluated by renowned Leica photographers at home and abroad, officially debuted as a photographer with supported from Leica Camera Japan in 2015. Aiming to create monochrome work that reflect a sense of originality.

 

To connect with Yasuhisa, please visit his official website and follow him on Instagram, his Blog, or via Email.

 

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  • We went to Iceland last spring, it was really amazing! Thank so much for your work and info! It was my second time i have visited Iceland but after reading your inspiration and want to jump on the plane again.

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