Iceland’s Winning Press Photos of 2021


The Journalists’ Association of Iceland announced the 2021 Press Photo of the Year winners last Saturday at the 2021 Press Photo exhibition opening at Reykjavík’s Museum of Photography. The winning photo, seen above, was taken by Vilhjálmur Gunnarson, and features, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Geldingadalir eruption, which began in March and lasted until September of 2021.

The jury described the photo as “An interesting, strong and original picture of one of the biggest news stories in a challenging year.”

News Photo of the Year


Vilhjálmur also won in the category of News Photo of the Year, for the above photo, titled “Where is Svandís?” The shot features Iceland’s new cabinet following the September 2021 parliamentary elections setting up for a group photo, with Minister of Food and Agriculture Svandís Svavarsdóttir nowhere to be found. The jury praised its humorous take on a classic subject.

Sports Photo of the Year

Kristinn Magnússon won in the category of Sports Photo of the Year, for this capture of a tender moment where Deane William’s girlfriend comforts him after his team has lost a game, while the winning team celebrates in the background.

Magazine Photo of the Year


This colourful shot by Hörður Sveinsson, featuring musician John Grant, was the winner in the Magazine Photo of the Year category. The jury praised its powerful colours and unusual shapes, which the photographer and subject clearly put a lot of effort into.

Environment Photo of the Year


Like the winning Photo of the Year, the winner in the Environment category, taken by Sigtryggur Ari Jóhannsson, also features the Geldingadalir eruption, though in a different light. The jury noted how the image appears black and white, but a closer look reveals subtle colours. The shot shows fresh lava about to flow over earthen dams, built to direct the flow of the eruption. 

Everyday Life Photo of the Year

Photographer Heiða Helgadóttir snapped a winner when she captured Una Margrét Jónsdóttir and Hólmsteinn Eiður Hólmsteinsson, married for 20 years, using a special form of communication that has helped them discuss difficult issues throughout their relationships: letting imaginary “finger people” discuss the topics on their behalf.

Portrait of the Year


Páll Stefánsson won the Portrait of the Year category for his shot of artist Shu Yi at the opening of her exhibition at Mutt Gallery last year. The jury praised the photo for its stylistic purity and calm but strong energy.

Photo Series of the Year

Heiða Helgadóttir shot this year’s winning series, which features Pétur Guðmann Guðmannsson, one of Iceland’s two professional forensic pathologists. All the autopsies Pétur carries out have the goal of determining the individual’s cause of death. The jury praised Heiða for her well-thought-out approach, and for portraying difficult subject matter in a way that was tasteful and professional, while still striking.

The exhibition features 102 photos in total, and can be seen at the Reykjavík Museum of Photography until May 29, 2022.

Interested readers can also browse the Press Photos of 2020 and Press Photos of 2019, in which Iceland Review photographer Golli was awarded.

Sigrún Pálsdóttir Wins 2021 EU Prize for Literature

European Union Prize for Literature

Writer Sigrún Pálsdóttir was awarded the European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL) on November 9. The EUPL honours a single writer per participating country once every three years. Sigrún Pálsdóttir is the fourth Icelandic author to receive the prize.

Promoting the circulation of notable European books

The European Union Prize for Literature (EUPL) was established in 2009 and is an annual initiative to recognize the best emerging fiction writers in Europe. The EUPL also aims to “promote the circulation and translation of literature amongst European countries.”

For authors to be eligible for the prize, their country must participate in the Creative Europe Programme, which currently includes over 40 countries: the 28 EU member states, the three EEA countries (including Iceland), the candidate and potential candidate countries for accession to the EU, and the European Neighbourhood Policy countries.

The EUPL is organized into three-year cycles. Each year, national juries comprised of experts in literature, publishing, and bookselling are organized into a “rotating third of the participating countries.” After settling on a shortlist of two to five books from their nation’s most promising writers, each jury selects its national winner. As noted on the EUPL’s website: “all participating countries are thus represented across cycles of three years, with the prize awarding one winning book/author per country.”

The fourth Icelander to be honoured

The 2021 EUPL award ceremony was held on November 9 at the culture house Flagey in Brussels, Belgium. Thirteen authors from 13 different countries were recognized.

This year, the jury selected writer and historian Sigrún Pálsdóttir as its Icelandic winner (the award had previously been announced in May of this year). Sigrún was honoured for her 2019 novel Embroidery (also been translated as Runaround and the Nonsense Trip), which revolves around a 19th-century Icelandic woman named Sigurlína: “She disappears from Reykjavik, along with a historical relic from her father’s collection. Through a series of incredible events, the artefact is unveiled at The Metropolitan Museum of New York.”

As noted in the jury’s review, “Embroidery is the product of an author who has achieved mastery of both form and style … the narrative is concise and lean … and the novel is at once original and modern but at the same time incredibly accessible and fun.”

Sigrún Pálsdóttir is the fourth Icelandic writer to win the EUPL. Previous winners are Halldóra K. Thoroddsen, Oddný Eir Ævarsdóttir, and Ófeigur Sigurðsson.

According to the EUPL’s website, each laureate of the EUPL receives 750,000 ISK (€5,000 / 5,700$) and their awarded book is given support for translation and promotion. “A EUPL anthology is also published every year, which features excerpts from all laureates’ awarded books both in the original language and in an English or French translation.”

Icelandic Thriller Blackport Takes Grand Prize at Series Mania 2021

Blackport TV series

The Icelandic TV series Blackport won the Grand Prize at the 2021 Series Mania festival yesterday. Blackport will premiere on RÚV on December 26 and is produced by Vesturport in collaboration with RÚV, ARTE France, and Turbine Studios.

“On Cloud Nine”

Based in Lille since 2018, Series Mania is a festival dedicated solely to European TV shows. This year marked the first in-person iteration of the festival since 2019. During the festival’s award ceremony yesterday, the Icelandic TV series Blackport (Verbúð) was honoured with the Grand Prize in the International Competition.

“We’re on cloud nine,” actress Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir remarked, speaking to Iceland Review from her home in Reykjavík this morning. “We’re incredibly happy to have been accepted to the festival; we were competing with big productions, from the likes of HBO, so we weren’t exactly expecting to win. Being honoured with the grand prize far exceeded our expectations.”

Premieres on December 26

As noted by Screen Daily, Blackport is a “political thriller set in a once-thriving fishing port hit by quota restrictions in the mid-1980s.” Created by Nína Dögg Filippusdóttir, Gísli Örn Garðarson, and Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, the series – mainly shot in Suðureyri and the Greater Reykjavík area – entered into production last summer and wrapped in August.

“It’s been a long road, complicated by COVID-19; we shot part of the series in Hull and Grimsby, but travelling there last winter proved difficult in light of the pandemic,” Nína Dögg stated. The actress plays the lead role in the series along with Björn Hlynur Haraldsson. Blackport also features Gísli Örn Garðarsson, Unnur Ösp Stefánsdóttir, Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Ingvar E. Sigurðsson, Steinunn Ólína Þorsteinsdóttir, and Selma Björnsdóttir.

Blackport is produced by Vesturport in partnership with RÚV, ARTE France, and Turbine Studios. The series comprises eight episodes and will premiere on RÚV on December 26. “Before the premiere, we’ll be taking it to Mipcom in October and to another festival in Barcelona. From there, the ball will start rolling,” Nína Dögg stated.

Broke Her Own Icelandic Record at Tokyo Olympics

swimmer Snæfríður Sól Jórunnardóttir

Icelandic swimmer Snæfríður Sól Jórunnardóttir broke her own Icelandic 200-metre freestyle record at her first-ever Olympic event in Tokyo today. She completed the event in 2:00.20, beating her previous record of 2:00.50 by 30/100 of a second.

Despite the impressive personal success, Snæfríður was the last of eight swimmers in Heat 3 and therefore will not proceed to the semifinals for the event. The swimmer will, however, compete in the 100-metre freestyle on Wednesday.

Snæfríður is one of four Icelanders competing in the Olympics this month and was one of Iceland’s two flagbearers in the opening ceremony last Friday. She is from Hveragerði, South Iceland and now lives in Denmark.

Fourteen Awarded Order of the Falcon

Icelandic President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson awarded 14 individuals with the Order of the Falcon yesterday, June 17 (Icelandic National Day). The Order of the Falcon is the only chivalric order in Iceland, originally founded by King Christian X of Denmark and Iceland on July 3, 1921. Honorees are selected by the President of Iceland and a five-member council.

This year’s recipients include ornithologist and falcon enthusiast Ólafur Karl Neilsen for his research into Icelandic birdlife; former Governor of the Central Bank Már Guðmundsson for his work on behalf of the government; producer and activist Rakel Garðarsdóttir for her efforts on raising awareness of food waste and environmental issues; and filmmaker Egill Eðvarsson, for his contributions to television programming and Icelandic cinema.

Complete List of Honorees:

  1. Már Guðmundsson, economist and former Governor of the Central Bank
  2. Dagný Kristjánsdóttir, professor of Icelandic literature
  3. Edda Jónsdóttir, visual artist and gallerist
  4. Egill Eðvarðsson, filmmaker
  5. Felix Valsson, anaesthetist and intensive care physician
  6. Jón Kristinn Cortez, choir director and music instructor
  7. Lára Stefánsdóttir, headmaster
  8. Margrét Kristmannsdóttir, former Deputy Chair of SA (Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise)
  9. Ólafur Flóvenz, geologist
  10. Ólafur Karl Nielsen, ornithologist and Chair of BirdLife Iceland
  11. Páll Halldórsson, pilot-in-command
  12. Rakel Garðarsdóttir, activist
  13. Rósa Björg Jónsdóttir, library and information specialist
  14. Þorbjörg Helgadóttir, former dictionary editor at the Arnamagnæan Institute in Copenhagen.


The award is bestowed twice a year, on January 1 and June 17.

Left-Green Party Condemns Israel’s “Abuse of Power”

In an official statement published today, Iceland’s LeftGreen Movement has condemned the Israeli government‘s “abuse of power” in its response to rocket strikes from Gaza. The party calls the attacks indefensible.

The worst violence since 2014

Over 100 people have been killed in Gaza since Monday, in what has been the worst violence in Gaza and Israel since 2014. The violence followed weeks of Israeli-Palestinian tension in East Jerusalem, culminating in conflict at a holy site venerated by both Muslims and Jews. Rocket strikes from Hamas the de facto governing authority of the Gaza Strip triggered retaliatory strikes from Israel.

Last night, the Israeli military aimed heavy artillery fire and dozens of airstrikes into Gaza, with fears growing that Israel could launch a ground invasion to quell the rocket fire, CNN reports.

Abuse of power, land expropriation, and deportation

This morning, the Left-Green Movement – the leading party of Iceland’s three-party coalition formed after the 2017 elections – condemned the actions of the Israeli government. The statement, which was published on the party‘s website, reads as follows:

The Left-Green Movement condemns the abuse of power, land expropriation, and deportation of Palestinians from settlements that are subsequently destroyed and colonized by Israelis. This constitutes a flagrant violation of international agreements, international law, and human rights.

The Israeli government’s harsh response airstrikes with sophisticated weapons (or unmanned drone strikes), in densely populated areas within Palestine – to rocket strikes from the Gaza strip is indefensible. The operations of the Israeli police against protestors in Jerusalem are also indefensible.

The Left-Green Movement has always emphasised the necessity of seeking out a peaceful solution in the region. Lasting peace will never be attained by the force of arms or oppression, and it is important to preserve the integrity of international law and to avoid violating the human rights of the region’s inhabitants.

The Left-Green Movement would also like to recollect the resolution passed by Parliament that authorized the government to officially recognize the independence and autonomy of the state of Palestine.”

Minister of Foreign Affairs Tweets

In a Tweet last Monday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and member of the Independence Party, Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, called on “all sides” to refrain from violence.

Social Restrictions to be Eased on Monday

Katrín Jakobsdóttir COVID-19 mask

After a record number of Icelanders were vaccinated this week, the government announced that social restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be eased on Monday. Approximately 47% of those whom the government intends to vaccinate, have received at least their first jab, RÚV reports.

Record number of vaccinations

On the heels of the biggest vaccination week in Iceland, where 40,000 people were inoculated, the government announced today that social restrictions will be eased on Monday, May 10. The current tally of Icelanders who have received one or both doses of the vaccine stands at 138,577, or 37.6% of Iceland’s population.

From 20 people to 50

The new regulation will see the number of people allowed to gather in one place rise from 20 people to 50. Swimming pools, camping sites, and ski slopes will be allowed to increase their number of guests to 75% capacity. The same holds for gyms, with the added caveat that no more than 50 people are allowed to gather within each designated area.

The number of sports competitors allowed within each designated area will be increased to 75 from 50, and the same goes for performers on stage (or during other cultural events generally). The number of seated guests allow within a designated area at an event—whether regarding the performing arts, religious events, etc.—will be increased from 100 to 150.

The number of people allowed inside stores will be increased from 100 to 200, and restaurants are allowed to stay open until 10 pm (guests must leave the premises before 11 pm). The two-meter rule will continue to be in effect.