Interview #40: Genevieve Bjargardttir
CUS: How did you get into photography?
Geneviève Bjargardóttir: I was not a kid with a camera. I only started taking pictures when I was in high school. I took ridiculous pictures then, and I thought of course that they were very good. I found all of my old negatives - after thinking for years I had lost them forever - and they were such rubbish mostly, pretentious and boring. I wanted to be a photographer then - and I did not even know what that meant I think really - it was just some vague idea, some kind of unfounded dream. After I left high school I stopped taking pictures, and for a long time I did not touch a camera. I got a polaroid when I was 21 maybe, but I did not get back to proper film until maybe two years ago. But there is nothing better than pictures to me - I cannot believe I was away from them for so long. I do not like to talk very much, to me it is easier to make photographs, they say often what I want much better than I can put into words.
CUS: Tell us a little about where you live.
GB: I live in Reykjavík, Iceland. We are far north here, all alone together in the middle of the north Atlantic ocean. Often you can forget this - it is a city, not a huge one but a good one, you live your life here, you forget. But then suddenly sometimes you are reminded of being so remote from anything else. It is not a bad sensation - for me it is more of a comfort. There is a feeling of safety to being far away on an island. We live in a tiny rust-red house on a street that translates as lighthouse path - if you walk all the way down it leads to the ocean.
CUS: Do you have a favorite photographer?
GB: My favourite photographers have always been the small ones, the ones that if I named them all here would not mean very much to most people. But they are the ones that give me the most pleasure to look at, their images are the ones that mean most to me. I have just started a new project even to try to give them a little of the attention they should be getting. You can see it here www.inconnu-unknown.com
CUS: What sort of themes do you try to explore through your photographs? Is there any one in particular in which you try to convey often?
GB: Nostalgia I think most of all - it pervades everything I do, even when I do not intentionally focus on it. There is of course a necessary sense of something past, gone, when you take a picture - you have held onto a moment that ceased to exist in your capturing it.
CUS: What did you have for breakfast this morning?
GB: Nothing. I often do not eat breakfast. I get up early but I only have coffee. Not at all healthy but I never feel like eating anything in the morning. Breakfast is quite nice to have later on. When I do need to eat something early it is most often a rúnnstykki with butter and cheese. It is a kind of bread roll they have here in Iceland, very simple.
CUS: If you could photograph any person (past or present) who would you choose?
GB: I wish I could have known my grandfather's family when they were young living in Russia. I would have liked to photograph them in that way.
CUS: Do you believe that with the rise of digital photography the phrase “everyone can be a photographer” is true?
GB: Oh I actually rather think that the opposite is true! Everyone now can take a picture but that does make make them a photographer. With my husband not so long ago we were looking through his family's old photo albums - how beautiful these old photographs were that his mother had taken. He told me about how she would take her time with each frame, even being strict with him and his sister and brother to make sure they all stayed when she wanted them. There is a feeling of care and attention in them. She stopped using film a long time ago, and her pictures now are so different from what they were.
CUS: What kind of camera do you use the most?
GB: Zenit E is my true love.
CUS: Do you always have preconceived concepts of what you want to shoot?
GB: Hardly ever. I do have elaborate ideas of shots that I would like to make, but they never happen, I do not have the right people and places and organization for it. But someday I will make them real! I have a black book where I sketch them all down, these ideas, so they are not ever lost, just waiting.
CUS: Do you have a favorite subject you like to shoot? And why?
GB: I have a person. Gabrielle. We used to live together in Paris. It has been such a long time since I have been with her though now. She is beautiful, in a way I do not even quite understand. I love her, I have since I first saw her.
CUS: What is your most treasured possession?
GB: My wedding ring - not because of anything about it particularly, but because I always wear it, I feel very uncomfortable without it on, and of course it represents all my feelings for the man I love and his for me.
CUS: What is the thing you like the least about photography? The most?
GB: It is so expensive to get my film developed - I hate this. I like having a moment that I can go back to forever, I like the freezing of time that is possible with a camera.
CUS: What are a few of your favorite films?
GB: The Swedish vampire love story Låt den rätte komma in [Let the Right One In] - this is a beautiful story and wonderfully shot, it is a gorgeous thing to watch. But mostly I do not like movies as much as TV shows - they are made so well now, and their stories are so much richer. I like getting to know the characters, otherwise I find it hard to care about them. Two hours is not really enough time to spend with someone to develop a true feeling for their fate.
CUS: What was the last movie you saw in the theatre?
GB: It has been a long time... Probably it was at the Reykjavík International Film Festival back in the fall - we bought passes and went to see as many movies as we could. There were some very good ones - Womb, Bad Family, and a Finnish documentary about saunas that was wonderful, called Steam of Life.
CUS: What are your other hobbies besides photography?
GB: I worked for a year baking bread, and that is always a pleasure to me, although I really do not do it as often as would be nice. I like to go walking in the mountains in France in the summer time. My biggest hobby is collecting - all things, in all ways, in all formats. It is a bit of a curse but I cannot help myself!
CUS: Our last interviewee, Adam Revington, wants to know: What is your idea of the perfect date?
GB: Well, it is a lovely Sunday for us when we can get out of bed when we like, and make some good coffee at home to drink as we read the papers or our books while we are slowly waking up. Then we go out for a walk in the cold before we go to the sports bar to watch football with a big plate of crispy french fries. I never watched it at all before I met my husband - but now I get very excited to watch Manchester United play! I am really an excellent wife.
CUS: Last but not least, what would you like to ask our next Interviewee?
GB: What is your favourite indulgence or extravagance?