Ragnar Axelsson: Faces of the North
I didn't find a review on this gorgeous book on APUG, so here is mine!
I recently went to Iceland in mid-winter and was fortunate to meet Ragnar Axelsson and collect his signature on this book, which is filled with remarkably effective b&w images from his ventures in Iceland, Greenland, and the Faeroe islands.
I won't attempt to try to put into words what is best expressed in the images, but I will just make a few observations. First of all, Ragnar's images are full of motion, leaving the viewer with the impression of being part of a dynamic scene. This is a rather different approach than one often finds in the landscape imagery of the north, which (IMHO) tends to have a museum-like, tripod-bound, static geometry. Ragnar uses a variety of techniques to build the feeling of transience into his compositions, thereby lending value to the specific moments he records. Supporting these effects are some fairly long exposures, unusual [albeit not contrived] tilts, beautiful small/medium-format film grain, and honest, contrasty renderings that let black be black, and white be white. There is a sense of available light doing what it does best: highlighting expressions.
I'll just note that, to me, the landscapes of Iceland are especially lyrical... and so too the language and the culture and the people. This sense of rhythm is found in each and every one of Ragnar's compositions.
What you should also know is that Ragnar really gets to know his subjects. He lives amongst them; he interacts with them on a sincere, human level. He experiences what they experience, and risks what they risk. The personal, story-like impact of his photographs reveal an investment in people and their condition. There is nothing remotely dry and aloof about what he is showing us.
Chatting with Ragnar, I learned that he has a new book coming out soon, roughly on the subject of how climate is changing in the far north. I gather that some of the the images are being picked up by Nat Geo, so let's keep our eyes open for the book and the surrounding articles. I asked Ragnar if he's coming over to the U.S. for a show and will report here if and when that happens.
In conclusion, Faces of the North is a must have. Five stars.
Here is another review with additional nformation on Ragnar's tools and techniques: