Something Magical Always Happens

The Process and Inspiration Behind the Photographs of Elisabet Davidsdottir

Something Magical Always Happens

The varied but always beautiful photography of Elisabet Davidsdottir has fascinated us for some time. She has the ability to both capture fascinating landscapes and intimate portraits. We sat down with her to find out how she does it.

Ravelin Magazine

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I noticed you do these very interesting special projects with your Icelandic countrymen. Can you talk a little about these projects and what makes them special?

I have a terrible memory and am bad with words, so I use pictures. In my circle of friends, I’m usually the quiet one, observing. I’m the most comfortable when I have my camera, and I think that’s why these projects are special. I’m interested in the emotional aspect of performances or subjects and try to capture that with the camera. I usually like to go deeper than the performance itself, what happens before or after. I’m there and become part of the process, but I let everyone and the process happen, without disrupting it. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say; I’d just rather say it with pictures. This is why I started working with creative people, and why they like working with me. I have always been drawn to artists, and most of my Icelandic friends are artists, or doing creative things, but I never did consider myself one. On most of these projects, there is a lot of hanging around and then something magical always happens.

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I think there is something in my photos that directly connects to Iceland, not just the nature there, but also the people, the music, the light, the environment as a whole.
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Do you think there’s an extent to which the Icelandic landscape influenced your aesthetic?

I’m obsessed with the light and texture of the Icelandic landscape, and how it can bring out different feelings within you. I find it inspiring to visit the same place again, and it never feels like the same place depending on the time of year or day. There is something about Iceland that comes with the extremes of the long days during the summer time and short days during the winter. It has taught me to see, and that’s really what photography is about light and texture. I think there is something in my photos that directly connects to Iceland, not just the nature there, but also the people, the music, the light, the environment as a whole. I find the nature calming and meditative and I love nothing more than spending a few days on my own, with a camera, in Iceland.

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You have a great eye for portraiture. How do you approach working with your subject? How do you draw them out during the portrait taking process?

I am a shy person and often feel uncomfortable, so it’s all about making the subject feel comfortable to the extent of making them perhaps forget for a minute that they are being photographed. Sometimes it’s asking lots of questions and sometimes it’s saying not much at all. In order for that to happen, I like there to be time, time to get to the place of perhaps the subject being over the shoot and to stop thinking about it. I do take a lot of frames, which can make editing tiresome.

To what extent do you embrace the digitization of photography? Are you very involved in the post-processing of your images?

I’m somewhat compulsive and obsessive when it comes to shooting; to that extent digital photography suits me well.  However, it also makes my post work much harder. I do all my own post-processing, and with digitization you have to do some amount of retouching.  It’s the part I like the least and would be happy to sign over to someone else.

You’ve done a lot of work in fashion. Are there fashion photographers who you particularly admire or who you’ve modeled your approach on? 

Mario Sorrenti, Jurgen Teller and Irving Penn.

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