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Matinee: 'Axelsson Photographs Thorarensen' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

8 June 2024

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 556th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Thorarensen Photographs Axelsson.

In this 2:52 video from Qerndu Publishing, Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson describes a casual portrait session in 1986 with the fisherman Axel Thorarensen.

For over 40 years, Axelsson has been documenting in black-and-white photographs the people, animals and landscape of the most remote regions of the Arctic, including Iceland, Siberia and Greenland.

As a photojournalist, he has worked on freelance assignments in Latvia, Lithuania, Mozambique, South Africa, China and Ukraine. his work has been published in Life, Newsweek, Stern, GEO, National Geographic, Time and Polka. He has also published eight books, won the 2016 Icelandic Literary Prize for non-fiction, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award (Honorable Mention); the Grand Prize Photo de Mer Vannes and Iceland's highest honor, the Order of the Falcon, Knight’s Cross.

But there was something about this ancient fisherman who rowed out to sea every day with no other engine than his arms that drew Axelsson's attention.

There was the faithful dog who waited for Thorarensen on the shore until he had finished fishing. There was the story about the shark Thorarensen had tied to his boat and towed back only to wake the shark and lose half his boat.

But that's not what grabbed Axelsson.

It was that this kind of life and the people who lived it were fading away. Disappearing. "You have to photograph it," he told himself.

So he did. And Thorarensen didn't mind at all. He smiled.

You have to get to know your subject, Axelsson says, before you can photograph them. You have to earn their trust before they forget you have a camera in your hands and treat you as they themselves wish to be treated.

Like a fellow human being. Sharing a moment.

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