Image: Eyþór Árnason

Press Photos of the Year 2018

 In Magazine, Magazine Intro, Photo Series

Each year, the Icelandic Press Photo Association runs a contest for the year’s best photographs. From the elation of a crowd watching Iceland’s first-ever World Cup match, to the touch of rescuers’ hands on a beached whale, this year’s winning shots evoke a range of emotions. Iceland Review spoke to the winners in each category for some insight into their entries.

Photo of the Year
Heiða Helgadóttir

Adrían enjoys sitting on the bus and observing the surroundings.

The Photo of the Year belongs to the Photo Series of the Year, taken by Heiða Helgadóttir of twin brothers with autism. “It’s not necessarily my favourite picture from the series, that would be the picture with the Christmas lights, but this is still a beautiful moment. I sat on the bus in the seat in front of Adrían, it was like he was in a trance for a long time. I took an unbelievable amount of pictures of him there because I was struggling to have the focus of his eyes in the right place. He was just staring, sunk deep in the cityscape.”

Press Photo of the Year
Haraldur Jónasson (Hari)

Firefighters douse a burning house with water in Selfoss.

The Press Photo of the Year was taken by Haraldur Jónasson of a burning house in Selfoss, South Iceland. Two died in the fire. “It’s not really common that we drive out of [Reykjavík] to photograph a burning house but we did it that time. I met an ambulance on the way to the scene so I was hoping that people were still alive, but that turned out to be wishful thinking. Of course, it’s hard being aware of the people who died in the fire when you’re shooting like this. Nevertheless, it was a change to shoot at a scene where the police were just calm and let you do your job. I came relatively close to what was happening there and could take this photo. Recently, it’s been a bit of a fight and bother for us photographers to deal with the cops.”

Sport Photo of the Year
Sigtryggur Ari Jóhannsson

Iceland men’s national football team supporters didn’t let the pouring rain prevent them from watching the match against Argentina in Hljómskálagarðurinn park in Reykjavík.

The Sport Photo of the Year was taken by Sigtryggur Ari Jóhannsson and features supporters of the Iceland men’s national football team watching the team’s first match at the World Cup in Moscow, Iceland versus Argentina. “People stood there in the downpour and cheered on the boys through the big screen. Then came that moment when Hannes Halldórsson defended the penalty kick from Messi and everything went crazy. Tremendous emotion.” Sigtryggur says he shot fans watching all three of Iceland’s World Cup matches and enjoyed it, although he himself doesn’t follow sports much. “Maybe I’ll go to the next big tournament they qualify for to shoot the matches directly. Whenever that happens.”

Magazine Photo of the Year
Hallur Karlsson

Rapper Herra Hnetusmjör.

Hallur Karlsson took the Magazine Photo of the Year, featuring rapper Herra Hnetusmjör. “When I take portraits of people, I want to focus on the people themselves and I don’t decorate much with the surroundings. The studio is always my home base and I’m used to setting up the photos’ mood in advance. The journalist and Herra Hnetusmjör wanted a lot of attitude in the pictures and before he came in for a photo shoot, I was sent a photo by Terry Richardson which they thought was cool and wanted to use as the mood: a very tattooed rapper, topless with his fingers in the shape of a gun, flashing a gang symbol. The magazine cover was like that, but I felt that atmosphere didn’t suit an Icelandic lad, so I got him to dress up. He had brought around 30 different glasses with him, and when I saw these, I was sure they were it. That’s how I wanted him, natural and stylish.

Portrait of the Year
Heiða Helgadóttir

“After each and every time dad abused me, he said sorry and promised to never do it again.”

Anna Kjartansdóttir is the subject of the Portrait of the Year. She grew up with a convicted paedophile and violent stepmother who both recently received convictions for abusing her. Her father was given a four-year sentence while her stepmother received ten months.

“I went and met her at her home, shot her in many spots inside and outside the house. On this picture, she sat in her bed and I thought she was most content there, that she felt safe and relaxed,” Heiða says. Heiða also shot last year’s Portrait of the Year, of a woman who had travelled abroad with her husband to help him undertake assisted suicide, which is illegal in Iceland. Nevertheless, Heiða says that she mostly takes pictures of what journalists tell her to and doesn’t particularly seek out dramatic subjects. “These may not be the coolest portraits, but they contain a lot of emotion. We all want our pictures to evoke emotions in the people who look at them.”

Daily Life Photo of the Year
Aldís Pálsdóttir

A woman in labour is comforted by her companions.

“This is one photo from a series that I sent in to the competition,” Aldís tells us. “Of course, I would have preferred to have the whole series in the exhibit. I had shot and collected birth photos for many years. It’s the most remarkable thing I’ve gotten to experience. I have two kids myself. It’s so magnificent to experience life coming into the world. The woman who is giving birth on the picture is a good friend of mine, we’d been working together for ten years on a big book project about birth. The book had already been published and this is her most recent labour but I had shot her giving birth before.”

Environment Photo of the Year
Eyþór Árnason

Two whales got beached on Engey island. A group of people went there to try to rescue them. One of the whales died, but the other was rescued successfully.

“When the news came out that two whales had gotten beached on a shoal by Engey island, we hitched a ride to the spot with a boat. A big group of people, most from whale watching companies, had shown up to try to rescue them. I first tried to shoot it from the boat but saw right away that I had to come closer. Though I was only wearing running shoes and jeans, I waded into the cold sea up to my waist to get the pictures I wanted.” Eyþór says he must have spent one and a half hours shooting from the water. “The people there completely devoted themselves to the job, there were many feelings in the air which I think I captured in this picture where the rescuers are trying to calm the whale.” One of the whales died, but the other managed to swim away in one piece. “It was an indescribable feeling when it first jerked its tail and came free.”

Photo Series of the Year
Heiða Helgadóttir

It’s the fifth year in a row that Heiða wins Photo Series of the Year. “This project is very personal to me because the brothers are my sister’s sons. I had already been dreaming of creating a photo series about them. When it came down to it, I met them almost every day for two weeks. I went everywhere with them and dove deep into their life. I found it incredibly fun and they also thought it was very exciting. At first, they were always smiling and posing but they got used to me quickly so I got to take the pictures I wanted. Of course I know them well so I knew what I was getting into.”

01 — Twin brothers Adam Eilífur and Adrían Valentín just turned 11. They are both autistic. They have a limited vocabulary, though Adam is more open and can express himself slightly more than Adrían, who is more fidgety.

02 ­— The two brothers are extremely close, though Adrían is more dependent on Adam. If Adam changes his sweater, for example, then Adrían does so as well, so they can be exactly identical.

03 — Adrían has many beautiful gemstones which he loves to look at and handle. His pockets are always full of them.

04 — Adam enjoys the water.

05 — Adrían enjoys sitting on the bus and observing the surroundings.

06 — A simple operation for most can prove complicated for the brothers. Their mom Hrund receives help from her friend Gulla to cut Adrían’s hair.

07 — The brothers are in a class for autistic children at Foldaskóli school, where they’re content. Adam takes advantage of recess to play on the swing while Adrían observes with his gemstones in his pocket.

08 — Adam looks out the window in the brothers’ room in Hólaberg where the two sometimes stay for short periods.

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