Hans Strand's Iceland - a photographic book review

It's no surprise to many of you that I own many fine photographic books.

What you may not know, is that many of them have been the catalyst that got me to go to some of the places I now know and love so well. Galen Rowell's 'Mountain Light' for instance inspired me to go all the way to Patagonia to witness for myself the grandness of Torres del Paine's stunning landscape.

Landmannalaugar, central highlands of Iceland, shot - I believe - from a helicopter. Image © Hans Strand

Landmannalaugar, central highlands of Iceland, shot - I believe - from a helicopter. Image © Hans Strand

I love how photography books can instil a sense of wonder and inspire me in my own photographic pursuits, but they can also take me inside myself for an hour or two where I feel I connect with my creative self. Give me a good book of images and I'm lost, entranced. Time becomes irrelevant, as too does the past or future. All that matters is the present moment - how I interact and feel about the work I'm viewing.

Hans Strand's book on Iceland is a very good book, because it does exactly that for me. I get lost and absorbed in the wonder of Iceland because the work presented inside the book is so beautiful.

 Image © Hans Strand.  The book has many abstracts taken from the air.

 Image © Hans Strand. The book has many abstracts taken from the air.

When I received the book, I thought I'd have a short glimpse through it, but I got so caught up in the landscape, my quick few seconds to look through it extended to over an hour. I lost myself in the landscape and Strand reminded me that Iceland is still relatively untouched, unknown and un-photographed. He takes us on a very different journey through the landscapes of Iceland. His book shows us the abstract nature of many unknown locations from the air as well as the ground: sometimes at a very disconnected (read satellite view) and other times at a more intimate vantage point, just hovering a few hundred feet above. 

 Images © Hans Strand

 Images © Hans Strand

Indeed, places like the Landmannalaugar region of the fabulous Fjallabak area of Iceland are perhaps best photographed from up high. With its rhyolite and green moss hillsides intermixed with snow that remains until the very tail end of the summer, there are fabulous patterns to be enjoyed - more so if one has a helicopter. I think his images of the Landmannalaugar region are perhaps some of the strongest in this book: because they successfully capture what I see in my own mind's eye when I am there myself but am unable to capture. They are also beautifully abstract and well composed images. More art than document.

But why would anyone want to own a photographic monograph? I ask this, because over the years I've been writing about some of my favourite books, I've had emails from readers of this blog who have either told me that:

1) They have never owned a photographic book (imagine just what they are missing!)

2) or that they only wish to buy a book if there is text inside which explains how the images were created (and therefore missing out on what can be learned by just studying and enjoying someone's work)

Front cover of Hans Strand's book

Front cover of Hans Strand's book

It’s no surprise to me that many photographers do not buy other photographer’s work. They may enjoy it on a web browser, but the interest seems to go no further than that. This is a shame, because photographic monographs are inspiration food for us photographers. If they are well printed, as is the case with Strand’s wonderful book on Iceland, they can teach us and inspire by illustration. They also feed us with the possibilities of what is there and what we may experience if we so choose to go there ourselves. They also remind us of why we love photography so much.

Ultimately, photography books like Strand's allow us to connect to our creative selves: if I can't get outside to make photos, then sitting gazing upon a beautifully printed book is the next best thing. In this regard, Strand's book is one of the nicest, and inspiring books on Iceland that I've seen in a while.

If you would like to find out more, or perhaps buy a copy, this book is available as a special signed edition from Beyond Words at £40.