Snapshots: Savoring the Light in Iceland

As summer draws to a close, I hear my friends and family lament its passing. The days of warm skin and noisy crickets run out too fast. Usually I want to remind them that they knew this was coming. That maybe they should have taken that camping trip or at least spent a few lunch breaks outside. But I also remember that the reason they appreciate summer so much is that it doesn’t last.

A few summers ago I took a trip to Iceland for a workshop with a photography hero of mine, Mary Ellen Mark. I thought that I would focus on documenting fishermen while I was there because I was working on a similar project back home in D.C. But after the first day, I knew that this would not be the case. The ships weren’t going to be as visual as I had thought, and so I just set off wandering through Reykjavik and a few other small towns in southern Iceland.

It was impossible for me to focus on anything but the people I saw absorbing summer against a vast and otherworldly backdrop—bright pops of color in a landscape of consistent greens and grays, a palette I think of as characteristically Scandinavian. The geothermal pools and beaches were a cultural staple, something that everyone from toddlers to senior citizens seemed to enjoy equally. People were picnicking, camping, swimming, and tanning, like there would never be another day of sunshine.

I wonder if, when you live in a place that spends a great deal of the year in darkness, you more wholly embrace the light while it’s there just out of a physical necessity. Like a rechargeable battery pack, filling up and running down again, or like eating a big lunch when you know you’re going to have a really late dinner.

The few days I had there were soon over, and I returned to D.C., which held, for me, slightly less inspiration. If not because of Washington’s less-lunar landscape, then because of the distractions of real life. As a photo editor, I spend a lot of my waking hours thinking about and looking at other people’s pictures from all over the globe. But for the photographer in me, I see the time that I’ve spent “in the field” as sort of like sweet summer—something that recharges and inspires me for the rest of the year. It’s something that I always look forward to coming around again.

See more of Becky’s work on her website and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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