Review by Zoë Robert. Photos courtesy of Mats Wibe Lund.
Photographer Mats Wibe Lund is well known in Iceland for his photographs which document some of the profound changes and rapid development which have taken place in Icelandic society over the past five decades.
His library includes around 300,000 photographs tracing all aspects of life in Iceland including the herring boom, farming, the development of aviation in Iceland, road construction and Icelanders in their leisure time. And it is this documentation wherein the value of his work lies.Herring bonanza in Siglufjörður, 1962.
He studied aerial photography in the Royal Norwegian Air Force, with NATO in France, and at college in Germany and has gone on to exhibit his work both here in Iceland and abroad. Aged 75, Wibe Lund continues to work.Hallgrímskirkja church under construction, 1967.
The exhibition Mats 1956-1978 on show at the Reykjavík Museum of Photography showcases close to 80 photographs from his early career, images which conjure up memories of a different time. The everyday lives of Icelanders at work and play feature among his subject matter.
They document the construction of the road from Hafnarfjörður to Keflavík in 1963, a sheep roundup, the construction of apartment blocks in the Breiðholt suburb in 1972, the building of Hallgrímskirkja in 1967, and, one of my favorites, women working at a salting plant in Siglufjörður in 1962.A “herring girl” (Unnur Pálsdóttir, centre) at the O. Henriksen salting plant in Siglufjörður, 1962.
Wibe Lund’s comprehensive documentation of the time also includes images of workers in a bakery, coffee roasting facility, paint factory, wool mill, and goldsmith’s workshop, to name a few.
He also captures Icelanders during their free time: camping, queuing at an ice-cream parlor, sunbathing on the banks of Lake Laugarvatn—and reminds us of when a maritime zoo existed in Hafnarfjörður, with his image of two polar bears at play.Bathing beach by Laugarvatn lake, 1973.
Wibe Lund can certainly be commended for his broad subject matter: landscapes of Mýrdalsjökull glacier and Hekla volcano, an aerial shot of Icelandair’s first Fokker Friendship airplane flying over Reykjavík in 1965, or a black-and-white image of women in a headstand position in a Glæsibær gym are among his exhibited work.Docker at Akureyri, 1970.
His striking portraits include those of prominent Icelanders such as former Minister of Justice and Ecclesiastical Affairs and Mayor of Reykjavík Auður Auðuns and director of the Árni Magnússon Institute Jónas Kristjánsson, as well as those of everyday people such as a resident of Hrafnista old people’s home and a docker in Akureyri.
The exhibition runs through January 20, 2013. The images shown at the exhibition are also available to view online here.
Zoë Robert – [email protected]