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New Yorker: Photos of Iceland’s Shortest Days

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New Yorker: Photos of Iceland’s Shortest Days

Ólafsfjörður in winter.

Ólafsfjörður on þrettándinn, the thirteenth and last day of Christmas in Iceland. Photo: Annie Ling

This winter, photographer Annie Ling traveled to Ólafsfjörður, a town of 800 residents in northern Iceland, for the two-month Skammdegi AIR artist residency. The New Yorker has published some of her photos. The story, written by Amy Connors, goes like this:

Ling, who had never before visited the country, was “drawn to the challenge of working in ‘dark winter,’ ” the shortest days of the year, known in Iceland as skammdegi. With as little as four hours of light each day, the sun never rises above the peaks of the mountains that surround Ólafsfjördur, Ling said, and the land is blanketed in a “mysterious reflective light.” … “Iceland is a culture of storytelling and storytellers,” she told me. “Their stories and the unique environment that shape them . . . serve as inspiration for me.”

As in many stories about Iceland there are inaccuracies. This time they are in the photo captions:

“In Icelandic tradition, thirteen Yule Lads, thought to be elves or descendants of trolls ...” This probably stems from the widespread belief that all Icelanders believe in elves, but the Yule Lads are certainly not elves. Their mother is Grýla, a well-known troll, used to scare children from the earliest ages of Iceland. The paternity is not certain, but Leppalúði, Grýla’s live in companion is the likeliest suspect.

“The Icelandic sky during skammdegi, or “dark winter.”” Skammdegi means short days.

“Twelfth Night, an Icelandic holiday celebrated on January 6th, marks the last day of Christmas.” January 6 is called þrettándinn, the thirteenth day of Christmas. It is not a real holiday, but it does mark the end of Christmas.

It also bothered us a bit that the top Related Story on the website was: Life in North Korea.

The photos are good, though.

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