Check out my interview with Saga Sig in its entirety here, but read on for the written interview.
Dear Diane and Shaded Viewers,
When it comes to Icelandic photographer Saga Sig, a picture is worth more than a thousand words. From capturing the throes of teenage romance to ethereal landscapes, Sig’s photographs are a unique exploration of the genre through colour, subjects and composition.
Even with a signature style of vibrant and visually strong images, there is still room for the manifestation of dreams and nostalgia in the London-based photographer’s work, with series ranging from Last Days of Summer to Garden of Enchantment. Having already shot for publications including Dazed & Confused and Vision, and labels such as KronByKron and Nasir Mazhar, the future is only looking bright for Saga Sig.
Your interest in photography started at 8 years old, capturing the national parks and historic places of your hometown Thingvellir in Iceland with a 35 mm camera. How has your approach and view of the artistic medium changed since then?
My approach back than was innocent and naive, I took up a cameraand just captured what I saw, I took images to capture the beauty of nature around me. My approach back then was to collect memories, or moments so they wouldn’t fade away. It was a fascination with the play of light and shadows, how the national park Thingvellir changes with every minute that passes and transforms the incredible natural landscape. Ever since I was young, I have always had a great imagination and saw characters and creatures forming in the lava rocks. I am a collector at heart and feel like I am still collecting memories and moments.
I think my approach is still the same, I still capture and collect memories and moments, however my work is more informed and controlled now. I still want to photograph the beauty of people or surroundings, even what some would consider ugly things, I try to see the beauty in it. Wether it’s a trash park or beautiful flower garden, a person crying or laughing, I want to capture a beauty of the moment.
How would you say has the combination of growing up in Iceland and living in London shaped your aesthetic?
My roots can be identified in myphotography, the mystique, the love of nature, the love of storytelling and the fairytale themes. When you grow up in the countryside of Iceland, it’s difficult not to see ghosts or feel the energy of nature and the mystique in the air. My work is feminine, magical and colourful. I like to portray femininity and I am really interested in the history of women and the archetypal portrayal of women throughout history – the goddess, the femme fatale… I like magic, the unknown and the unexpected, and I like to make places or everyday surroundings magical.
Moving to London was at first a great shock to me, but also a new inspiration. I live in the north-east and when traveling home on the bus you see all kinds of things I would never ever see in Iceland. Yesterday a woman sat next to me, she was one of the unlucky ones in life, her head and eyes were deformed, she told me that she had been punched in the face by a former boyfriend leaving her eye paralysed and damaging a part of her brain. Moving to London made me realize that life is not all about the softness of beauty but ugliness and sadness as well. In the harshest circumstances the beauty comes so intensely. London’s strength is the people, emotion and their stories. I love the greyness of the city that meets the colourful personalities of the people. Moving to London gave my work an edge, an edge I needed to inspire me to step out of my comfort zone.
In what ways has your background in art history helped your work?
As I grew up in the countryside of Iceland, in very isolated places and before the internet, I didn’t know anything about the history of art, or fashion. Everything I knew was what I learnt from my parents. When moving to Iceland’s capital Reykjavik at the age of 15, I didn’t know anything about Michael Jackson or Britney Spears or the things my peers were inspired by and I had no idea about great photographers or artists. So from that moment on, I took it all in. I completed a year in art history before moving to London. I am really thankful for that, as it give me the basic knowledge I needed about art and that has inspired by my photography ever since.
You have spoken about how important the play with light, colours, textures and patterns is for you. How do you go about creating an image, what is the first element that you think about when starting on a new body of work?
This depends on what I am working with. When planning a fashion editorial a story is important. It can be a simple story, inspired by real life, a story I make up by reacting to something I saw, either art or real life adventures.
I think my first inspiration often comes with colour and colour combination. I am fascinated with colour and how our brains react to different ones. I like to look at how my subject, most often a person, interacts with its surroundings. Framing is important to me, I like images to be balanced. An image full of various textures, colours and patterns can work if you get the balance in the image right. I like graphic images and symmetry. I want my images to tell a story. All these things are important to me.
Who has been the most inspiring person you have photographed and why?
I am inspired by all the people I photograph and I have been fortunate to have photographed so many amazing people. I have an introverted personality, but I am very good at reading other people and seeing how they feel. With every person I meet, I learn or discover something new. I like photographing people that have a story to tell.
Having experimented with fashion film, how does working with the moving image compare to photography for you?
Photography and film to me are very different. A lot of photographers have been trying out fashion film with the new technology, me being one of them. I find it so different, being able to tell a story with one frame of a photograph, whereas I think it is important to structure a film into a beginning, a middle and and end. Most fashion films are not structured in that way and therefore I get bored after about 10 seconds. Fashion films can surely be beautiful when they are visuals for 10-20 seconds but films longer than that, in my opinion, need to have a strong storyline. I really like what Showstudio have been producing and I think fashion film in the future is going to be a big part of the fashion world.
You count art, fashion, music and film as your main sources of inspiration, what are your favourites in each category?
A difficult question to answer as I tend to see beauty in everything, both my best quality and my worst as well. One of my all time favorite photographers is Araki, who deals with life and death, sex and love.
I think the artists I am inspired by often deal with feelings and emotions, like Tracy Emin, Louise Bourgeois, photographers such as Nan Goldin or Lina Scheynius, and painters like Marlene Dumas.
In what direction would you like to take your work in the future and which new technology as well as techniques are you looking forward to trying out?
The past three years I have worked in fashion. Fashion for me is one way of escaping reality. Fashion encourages people to dream. I like how fast the fashion industry goes, there is always the idea of new, new, new — new dreams, new goals, new season, new people to work with, new places to visit and so on.
I always have dreams, but I think in future I will be working more with truth and reality. I am sensitive and a lot of things I do are shadowed by fear — photography has been my escape. I think in future I would like to face all my fears and deal with reality and real feelings and situations.
What projects, both actual and aspirational, do you have lined up for the future?
I’m planning on doing my MA in 2013, either in interdisciplinary studies like art and science or even visual arts. I have an exhibition in the spring with my project called Threads, and am working on a book project I hope will come out later this year. I would love to exhibit my work around the world and publish my own books.