October 18th 2008 I went for a drive to Kleifarvatn lake (not for the first time and not for the last) in desperate need of some inspiration. Taking a road I hadn’t driven down before, I came across an empty shed. It was in such a state of disarray, I figured it couldn’t possibly be in use. I also saw a great deal of potential in it, and after cleaning up most of the mess and pushing the moldy couch to one side, I happily decided to return as soon as possible and get to work transforming it into something more interesting than this:
before leaving, I shot both a sweater photo, and a doll photo. At the time, i was completely immersed in my doll series, and never left home without at least 2 dolls in the car.
I returned 2 days later armed with plastic sheeting, electricians tape, a hammer and some nails, and contentedly set to work covering the windows, with a warm autumn sun looking in on me. In my head, i had visions of making many different scenarious in this space, painting it in many different colors perhaps, for an intricate series, sure to blow everyones mind..
I was in such a good mood, I stopped to take this photo before leaving:
The same evening, a snowstorm hit (of course). Not surprisingly, the Icelandic wind made a joke of my makeshift plastic window-covers. When i returned the next day, (just managing to not get stuck in the snow) meaning to get to work with step two -painting the walls- I found one of the sheets in shreds. The other was completely intact, but happened to be flapping from a fence a good distance from the shed.
Inside, things weren’t very encouraging either:
Having sensed this would happen, i refused to give up. I had also (just in case) brought with me a bunch of narrow strips of wood. Gritting my teeth, I spent one of the most annoying hours of my life fighting the fierce wind to get the stupid plastic back into place, this time nailing the wooden strips over it, so it wouldn’t just rip right out from the nails again. Having finally shut out most of the wind and cold again, I did my best to paint half the shed a rather unattractive peach-pink shade (the only left-over paint i could find in my parents garage) , which would have been easier had the walls been dry..
I then went home, not really caring if the weather would crash the party again or not..
It continued to snow.. I was afraid to return, but on October 26th, I set out with a group of large white branches I had previously used for another series of photos, and my younger son tagging along. When we reached the turn-off for the road to the shed, the car promptly sunk into a foot of snow, and refused to go any further. Even more unfortunately, it also refused to go back onto the main road. Now, before I even had a chance to think about panicking, i saw a pair of headlights coming at us from the direction of the shed, and it turned out to be a much larger truck, driven by a pair of helpful scouts (no joke). They not only got my car un-stuck, they also drove me, my kid, the branches and camera gear all the way up to the shed (about 3 km) . I of course left my hammer in the car. But, being helpful scouts, they loaned me one ( scouts honor). The weather was calm and pleasant, so I told them we’d just walk back, and thanked them for saving my project. (the probably drove off thinking i was insane, and wouldn’t have been too far off)
The plastic hadn’t held this time around either, ( I found some comfort tho, in the fact that i’d nailed it so well into place, that this time the top of the original window frame on the left fell down, plastic still clinging). Deciding to just accept that the weather would be a part of this project from now on, I arranged the branches in the middle of the floor, and nailed them into place..
Then i arranged a large white sheet with a hole in the middle, around the trees, nailing it to the walls. I wasn’t really sure why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time..
Then we hiked back to the car, my son only complaining a little bit when i refused to carry his 9-year-old self along with my tripod and camera bag.
I then visited the shed on a regular basis, documenting how the weather shaped and changed the set-up:
Finally, on January 10, 2009, I returned to shoot a self-portrait in the ravaged remains of my first-ever installation piece.
after editing, this was my favorite outcome from that shoot:
I told myself my mission was accomplished, but being the hopeless perfectionist i am, doubt soon set in. Finally admitting to myself that I wasn’t satisfied, I returned on March 11th. Again, the road was impassable (this time due to thawing and deep mud), so I had to walk. I reshot the scene, and was far more pleased with the result this time around:
Even getting a pretty good outtake:
Last time i drove up to this area, the shed had been torn, and my branches nowhere to be seen, making me even more grateful that I had the sense to document this process.
Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes posts from other projects in coming weeks..Read 34 comments