ICELANDIC LANDSCAPES WITH GUNNAR FREYR
Icelandic winters are dark and long. Photographer and explorer, Gunnar Freyr, doesn’t mind that so much. “The winter weather is often dramatic and wild…it brings this unexpected and unpredictable element to life,” he says. But right around now, green and rocky landscapes are replacing those of snow and ice. “Before you know it, the days are getting longer and longer and you start feeling the sweet kiss of summer,” says Gunnar.
Gunnar lives and breathes the Icelandic landscapes he lives amongst. But Iceland hasn’t always been his home. He was born and raised in Denmark to Icelandic parents. He started out on a traditional career path – university and then a dream job for a multinational consulting and auditing firm – but something just didn’t feel right.
After a few (very successful) years behind a desk, Gunnar realised that he wanted life to be about something more. So he quit the 9 to 5, sold all of his belongings and moved, along with his girlfriend, from Copenhagen to Iceland. There, in a place where he felt “alive and free” he began to pursue creative projects and discover the unending wilderness Iceland had to offer.
Iceland is the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Just under 350,000 inhabitants live across its 40,000 square miles (that works out at just eight people for every square mile). Most of them live in the southwest of Iceland, around Reykjavik, the capital. That leaves huge swathes of the country uninhabited and remote. It’s a country where glaciers take up ten times the space of farmland. Where you’ll find black sand, lava fields, over one hundred fjords and 30 active volcanoes.
For Gunnar, moving from a cosmopolitan city to a place of cold, dark winters and extreme weather conditions was a huge leap of faith. There were also considerable cultural differences to get used to. “Icelanders are very informal and much less planned and coordinated than Danes,” Gunnar tells us. Luckily, his parents had made the move back to Iceland some years before. And, having grown up speaking Icelandic and observing Icelandic traditions at home, the transition was perhaps easier than it might have been.
Now, Gunnar adores the Icelandic mentality and pace of life. “It’s a very free-spirited and tolerant society,” he says, “Life doesn’t feel as serious here as it does in some other countries.” What’s more, he continues, “Iceland offers the perfect balance between adventure and quality of life…It brings a large world to a very small place in such a cool way!”
Inspired by his surroundings and with a new perspective on life, Gunnar started work as a photographer. A million miles from his city job back in Copenhagen, he now spends his days exploring Iceland (and the country’s nearest neighbor, Greenland), capturing the wildlife, traditional buildings, landscapes and seascapes that typify the region. He also arranges photography workshops. Taking guests on the trip of a lifetime, he helps them to develop their own photography skills and (for a few days at least) escape the stresses of city life just as he did.
Moving to Iceland is a decision Gunnar doesn’t regret. Four years down the line, he still gets that “wow feeling” when discovering new places and finding new and exciting ways to document them. From glinting glaciers to moss green hills, black volcanic rock to dramatic cliff faces falling into the sea, every season brings new vistas and new experiences. Getting up close with nature and giving free rein to his creativity – for Gunnar, life just doesn’t get much better.