Exploring The Creative Wilderness With Icelandic Photographer Saga Sig

After deciding it was time to take a week off to explore another part of the world, the next question was, where to go? Iceland rushed to my thoughts before my mind could consciously navigate to any other place. I think that is what people refer to as a gut instinct, a pull to pay attention to. So I went with it, and it was nothing I could have truly prepared myself for. A place like this strips you of your preconceived judgments. It fills you from your core, giving you more than you could possibly anticipate. These lands, their gentle creatures and crystal caves, and snow capped mountain ranges that run along seemingly untouched landscapes. This is where people go to become inspired, to connect to spirit and feel the incredible bounty the Earth has to offer. It is no wonder Iceland is home to so many exquisite artists; you can’t help but feel the soul of the place, and build from it. With that said, finding Icelandic artists to engage with on my journey was a difficult task, as there are so many talented folks that call this majestic island home. I was incredibly lucky to become connected with photographer and artist, Saga Sig. We met up at her studio in downtown Reykjavik and chatted about everything from growing up in Iceland to exploring creativity, life and self beyond its borders.

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Portrait by Brittany Brooks

Q&A 

LF: If you could choose any country in the world to spend the greater part of your days, where would it be?

SS: Iceland. Where I can see the ocean.

LF: How much time out of your year do you spend in your home country, Iceland? 
S: I lived in London and was based there for seven years. I am now based in Reykjavik, but I travel a lot. In the coming months I will be in Paris, London and Oslo. My dream would be to live in Iceland for six months out of the year, own a little farm with goats, horses, cats, dogs and a greenhouse where I can grow roses and exotic plants. I’d like to have a studio there where I can do my photo shoots and paintings and then live the other six months of the year somewhere where it’s a bit warmer and brighter in the winter.

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LF: What was it like growing up in such a place? 

SS: I am so grateful for growing up in Iceland. I think the connection to nature is what Icelandic people are most thankful for, but people are slowly loosing this connection, even in Iceland. I was lucky because I grew up in a national park where my mother was a ranger. In the winter it was very isolated and took us up to nearly an hour to get to school in the mornings. Sometimes there would be so much snow that some weeks we couldn’t even go to. I loved the winter wonderland; there was so much frost that you could hear the ice cracking and the sound echoing everywhere. You can hear the nature breathe, the change of light and energy is special. My first memory is from when I was three and half years old and there was a volcanic eruption near our house in Hekla Mountain. I was completely totally terrified and at that moment I understood the power of nature and that I should respect it. Nature is bigger than man and I think human kind is forgetting that. It is serious and we are destroying our Earth because of this. It is easy to see that here in Iceland. It is reckless to think that this place is like a movie set and not a real place where nature is bigger than you. People don’t have this fear and respect and that is why we have accidents and deaths here all the time with people in from abroad that haven’t grown up in touch with nature.

LF: Given that you are native to a somewhat isolated country, do you feel that ever hindered your ability to gain recognition as an artist?

SS: No I don’t think so. Firstly I don’t think I have thought that much about gaining recognition. I am always more interested in being able to do my work as it is what makes me happy. However it was great for me to move to London and gain a new perspective, live in a big city, struggle a bit, meet new people, connect and network. Also with the Internet it is not as isolated and it is easy to travel to and from Iceland.

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LF: Who/what brought you to the realization that you wanted to pursue art? 
S: When I realized it was necessary for me to create art to be able to live and breathe. If I don’t create, I am like a flower without water or soil.

LF: All of the mediums of art, why did photography grasp the strongest hold on you?

SS: I am a collector at heart. I wanted to collect memories and beauty, and preserve it. Painting and film making is also now a big part of my art. I think my progress will come from working with these mediums together and learning to mix them.

LF: What were some of the challenges you had to navigate through in creating your success as a photographer? 

SS: There have been all kinds of challenges. Learning to be profession is one thing. In commerce, at the end of the day you are selling a product, it is not solely about my creative vision. Also with dealing and collaborating with different every day there have been communication issues so you have to look at how you communicate with people and at the same time deal with personal issues! I am a sensitive person, so with time I learning to build a shield become a bit tougher so I don’t take some things personally.

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LF: What contributed most to your building your vision as an artist? 

SS: Learning that I need to give myself space, listen to my instinct and believe it and not think about the opinion of others while creating. I am constantly learning and mostly through my mistakes along my journey. I look at art and the work of artists I admire, travel and meet new people.

LF: From lighting and colors to mood and feel, each photograph you construct is vastly different from the next. From where do you pull inspiration to jog your creativity each time you set out to shoot a new project? 

SS: People usually say they can see that an image is by me, something about the color, texture and feel. But I think every shoot I do is to tell a certain story through character building, location, color or texture. So planning is very important to me. I am constantly pulling from inspiration, going to an art gallery, watching a movie or sitting on a bus and looking at people, it somehow translates to my work. I have a very strong imagination so I have so many ideas but not enough time to make them all come alive.

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LF: If you had motto for dealing with clients, what would that be?

SS: Breath in…Breathe out haha. No, I have been very lucky with the people I have worked with. The only problem is I think now in the Advertisement and Fashion industry there is a lack of trust in just letting an artist create. Too many people are getting involved in the decision-making. With too much involvement and taking the editing from the artist, we loose the magic. Commercials and fashion become flat. I don’t think there is a certain mantra you learn to be professional when working with a client. You have to think about and realize the fact that they are trying to sell a product and you are there to help them to do that.

LF: Of all the brands and artists you’ve collaborated with, what project excited you most? 

SS: I love working with people. I always learn something new. Working with Bjork and M.I.A, two incredible women, was amazing. The exhibition with Leica in Germany was an incredible experience and true honor. And to travel around the world has been great. I love traveling to work with people.

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LF: Speaking of collaborating with other artists, you’ve exhibited with and shot fellow Icelander and designer, Hildur Yeoman. How did that project come fruition? 

SS: We started working together way back when Hildur asked me to shoot a lookbook for her and since then I have photographed her collections. I think we have a lot in common, both in the way of seeing and thinking when we work. We even sometime show up in the same clothes! But I love collaborating with people and I’ve learned a lot from her.

LF: Was there a moment in time where you stopped and felt a progressive shift in the way you acknowledged yourself as an artist? If so, what event or culmination of events brought you that place of self-recognition? 

SS: I think right now in my life. I think its good sometimes to change the way you work and explore and right now I’m in that transition point. I have been working in fashion and commerce for seven years now and I’m giving myself more space to create on my own, to paint and direct. I am trying different things and I think that will give my photography a new perspective as well.

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LF: What is your absolute favorite subject to shoot? 

SS: People and landscapes. People in landscapes.

LF: If you could work with anyone in the future, who would it be? 

SS: I don’t have a specific brand or person in mind. I enjoy every project sit brings new experiences and the same goes for the people I work with. I plan and hope that the next projects I work on will be more personal. I have never had a private show so that would be amazing also and hopefully I can publish a book with my photographs from my Africa trip.

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