Monday, August 10, 2009

AUGUST ARTIST SPOTLIGHT! - Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir

Alright, everyone - I know it's been a year(!!!) since I ran this feature here on the blog, but it's always been a fun time when I do, and so I'm picking it back up now that I'm able to, and plan to have this be a monthly event in which I spotlight someone who's talent, vision, and kindness deserve a mention.

So, let's hit the ground running...

Today I am featuring the very well known, and incredibly talented Icelandic female Photographer: Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir. If you are a fellow Flickrite, you may already be well acquainted with her work and photostream in which she shares everything from her gorgeous Icelandic long exposures, to her pencil sketches, to her more surreal multiplicity shots.

Rebekka has received international attention for her unique work, and has been featured in everything from The New York Times to the BBC to an advertising campaign for Toyota Prius.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Rebekka, and below you will find the answers to my questions as well as a self portrait of this artist, and selected works she has chosen from every branch of her creative flow, that she feels best represent and illustrate her vision and style as both a visual artist, and photographer.

The Artist, Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir...

Q:What is your full name?
A:Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir

Q: Where in the world are you located?
A: Hafnarfjörður, Iceland. Smallish town just outside the capital of Reykjavík.

Q: Self taught or schooled?
A: A little bit of both. I graduated with a BA degree in visual arts in may 2009. However, much of my time at Icelands Academy of the Arts was spent experimenting on my own, rather than learning from the teachers there. I learned the basics of how SLR cameras work thru school, but all photoshop skills and the more creative camera tricks i’ve employed have come from playing around with the basic knowledge i had already.

Q: How would you best describe your work?
A: Well, obviously some of my photography is more straightforward- portraits and landscapes in which i aim to capture some essence of the subject not easily seen (i.e. the extreme long exposure used for most of my landscapes). My more artistic work, mostly the selfportraits and the more recent doll photos, i like to think of as surreal , moody or dreamlike fragments of stories without a beginning or end, which the viewer is free to interpret as they wish. My goal with my art is to cause some kind of emotion, wether good or bad. If it touches someone, i’ve succeeded in that.

Q: How about yourself?... Who is the woman behind the lens when she's not behind the lens?
A: I’m an extremely down-to-earth mom of two boys, (age 9 and 11 at the moment). I spend much of my time knitting sweaters, (which i make to order and sell) , I love to run (did a half-marathon last year), lift weights, read a lot. The least of my time is actually spent taking pictures, but I use the time when I'm doing other things to let my imagination wander and gather ideas.

Q: How did you get into photography?
A: In 2005 (the year I started my visual arts studies and also started using Flickr), I realized how BIG the medium of photography is. That a camera, paired with a creative mind and helped along by photoshop, could be used to create basically anything my mind could conjure up, and this realization was staggeringly exciting. My previous plan of learning how to paint was replaced with learning everything I could about photography. Needless to say, the learning process is ongoing, and with each goal i reach, or idea I succeed in getting out of my head and into a picture, I set some loftier, harder-to-reach goal. I'm never quite content, but i believe that's necessary in order to remain passionate about what you do.

Q: What was the first camera you ever owned?
A: First one I bought was a canon Ixus point-and-shoot, which i thougth was awesome at the time (2004). However, I did sortof adopt my dads old film camera, a ’74 canon, around 2000, when I took my first course in b&w film photography and darkroom procedure. I’ve used it quite a bit.

Q: What gear do you work with now, and what piece could you not live without?
A: I’ve been using the same Canon Eos 5D since July 2006. Bought it when I (surprisingly) got a rather big assignment to do an ad campaign for Toyota Prius. Haven’t done anything like that since, and can’t say I’m sorry. Great learning experience, but a commercial photographer i am NOT.

Q: What do you find to be your greatest inspiration(s) as a photographer & artist?
A: Very hard to say. Early on I was very inspired by Surrealism, and Cindy Sherman (almost a cliché to admit that, but its true). More recently I was very impressed by the work of Gregory Crewdson and Sandy Skoglund. Not that my work is anything like theirs, but I’m thrilled at the idea of putting HUGE amounts of work into photographs. Being not just photographer but art director, creating props, really pulling out all the stops to achieve the image you see in your head. That’s something I aspire to in my future work. Up until now I’ve been fiercly independant, only ONCE had someone assist me on a photoshoot . That was when I managed to convince Icelands Minister of Education to “loan” me her office , so I could dump a bunch of paper airplanes on her floor and pretend to be a business lady. My best friend came along for that, mostly for moral support, because i was nervous as hell. Some of the ideas knocking around in my head are too big for me to do alone, so I’ll be forced sooner or later to set aside me do-it-yourself rule.

Q: What project(s) are you currently focusing on?
A: I’m actually focusing more on drawing than photography at the moment. I recently found a renewed interest in pencil drawing, something I was fully immersed in before photography swept me off my feet. I’m interested now somehow balancing the two mediums, letting them complement each other.

Q: Any exhibitions or publications this year?
A: In May I was the featured artist of the month on the Nevica Project, which is an online gallery featuring works by young unknown artists and big names alike. I'm quite pleased to have my name listed on there alongside such artists as Sally Mann, Richard Serra, Robert Rauchenberg and Chuck Close.

Q: Name one thing people who follow your work may not know about you (either personally or professionally).
A: All of my image processing is done on a Macbook Pro, using only the touch pad. No mouse, no wacom tablet, no extra monitor. I'm extremely lazy about updating my equipment.

Q: What is YOUR favorite piece you've ever taken, and give us the back story to that photo...
A: That's a tough one. There are several which stand out for me, but if pressed I would say that my graduation piece is one I myself am most satisfied with. It's a series of 5 images, titled "The Myth of Happily Ever After". With preparations, it took me over a month to realize this idea. I created props for the first time - built a window, modeled rats and mice out of clay, created a bunch of giant flowers that ultimately weren't used- and convinced a building contractor to allow me the use of a huge, empty apartment for an entire weekend. The all-white interior and large windows allowed for a very empty atmosphere and natural lighting, so that my four young models (age 5-10) seem to be almost floating in a non-place, a void or a dreamlike state. Each image shows a scene with at first glance may seem beautiful, innocent or sweet, but carries a more ominous undertone. I also did a lot of work on getting an overall appearance I was satisfied with (thru a lot of trial and error) and while I'm not going to disclose how exactly I did that, it was NOT done in photoshop, tho of course i did some preliminary processing in PS at first (eliminating the lines where walls meet floor and ceiling, mostly.)

Q: What advice would you give other photographers that are just starting out?
A: Keep your mind open.

Selected Works...

To learn more about Rebekka, and her work, you may visit her:

Online Print Store
Flickr Gallery


And there you have it!
I hope you've enjoyed this artist spotlight, and thanks for visiting the blog!
If you would like to be considered for this monthly feature, please email me at: with a link to your website or online gallery.

Talk soon & Best Always-
Ashley Lebedev | Bottle Bell Photography


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Annabelle said...

She's amazing... *-^

Thanks for bringing her to my attention! Great read, too.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely breathtaking work!!!

Teresa said...

great interview!! her work is soo amazing

Kym said...

Inspiring. Very fun read.

AT said...

Thank you for a great interview. Since Rebekka has been among my Flickr contacts for along time, I learned about you through her reference to your blog and this interview.

Karen Lessy said...

Inpiring, and really beautiful. I learned about BOTH OF YOU today from a third party site, and am soooo glad I did :)

Anonymous said...

Nicely done interview. Amazing photographer and I love the landscapes and horse photographs. Thanks for bringing her to my attention.

Anonymous said...

wow! what a great interview. it makes me want to go out with my camera right now and start shooting. the q & a was enlightening and it was wonderful to visit both sites and view all the new photos. thanks, ashley and rebekka!

Stephen Newport said...

nice work!

db said...

thanks. I hope you do more. I enjoyed both the words and pictures.

Borealnz (Jill) said...

It's great to learn more about her...thanks!!

Unknown said...

it's great to see her work here. she is so talented and has such a great sense of humor. One thing that I think is so cool is that she uses just her mac and the touchpad in PS. I do the same thing! I heard her say it in another interview and I laughed to myself bc I just hate using the mouse or the tablet for processing...we are quirky women I guess. :)

Unknown said...

ps--it's official...I'm going to add you to my blog roll:)

olivia said...

Similar to AT, I found your site through Rebekka's link on flickr. Glad to have found your work too - lovely stuff!