Last November, photographer Spencer Wohlrab and two of his best friends left New York to spend two weeks in Iceland. The images that emerged during the trip have an air of banality hovering over their initial beauty that Spencer was acutely aware of. “I remember sitting in the back seat of the car, surrounded by cameras, film, skyr, candy, and fish jerky watching the landscapes go by my window,” he told us of his initial reaction to the country. “The more we traveled the more monotonous the landscapes would become and I would bore myself trying to find something out of the ordinary, forgetting that everything I saw was out of the ordinary. I decided to take photos depicting the tedious landscape in the washed out tundra which is Iceland.”
The photos have been compiled into a series called Inland (which can be viewed in part on Spencer’s website and in full in the self-published book of the same name), with each of the intimate and grainy analog images acting as a reminder of certain elements of the trip. “The first photo in the series shows my friends Toby and Jerry standing behind Seljalandsfoss. We put our cameras in trashbags and tried to make it behind this waterfall on the southern coast of the island, and suddenly realized why no one travels throughout Iceland in the colder months. Water from the falls sprayed out and coated the area in a rich pattern of windblown ice particles creating a dangerous walking environment, but the perfect natural slide. We slid down this small slope on our butts for hours until the sun started to set, and we then headed out to find Vik. I think two cameras stopped working that day.”
Based in New York, Spencer is a rare breed of photographer who doesn’t feel the urge to contribute to the abundant library of images of the city’s iconic landmarks. “Being in the heart of the tourist universe, with the over saturation of iconic New York imagery, it is hard to pull something original out of it,” he says. “Even in an attempt to derive from the mundane brings a certain amount of similarity to everyone’s photos. I like to keep scenery natural and homely by photographing in apartments. Traces of individuals scattered throughout the photos really lends a lot to the imagery.”
Now that he’s thawed out from his Icelandic adventure, Spencer is focussing his attention to his second book, a self-published work titled Everything I Have Been Wanting To Say, But Couldn’t Find Words, which depicts his transition to New York and will be released next month.