The Journal

An Afternoon With Gudlaug

Gudlaug was the first person I met in Iceland. Still, while trying to adjust back to my life in Portland, OR - I am so thankful that she was not just the first person, but the first friend I made in this new unfamiliar country. The following photographs were shot on Pentax 67 medium format camera with expired kodak film.

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The first collection of thoughts that run through my mind whenever I meet a person for the first time whether it be for coffee, a shoot, or to travel with are never good. It always comes with negative implications about myself or what that day will bring. Bad habit, I know, but we all have our vices. For whatever reason, these feelings were absent from the entirety of the afternoon. Between feeling so blissful from these damp and vibrant Icelandic landscapes and having one of my best friends with me, Ryan Neal Cordwell. It was safe to say that any previous worries that I would have had, went away and were replaced with excitement and happiness.

After we picked up our Land Rover, and somehow figured out how to get to our AirBNB, we knew we had to make it to the agency by 1:00 p.m. to pick up our model for the day. After realizing that the street numbers made absolutely no sense to a foreigner. Needless to say we were late, but we were having so much damn fun that it didn't even remotely matter.

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iceland-portrait-photographer

So as we wait for Gudlaug to come out of the agency building we figured out our location for the day. The abandoned plane crash on Sólheimasandur black sand beach was a unanimous decision between Ryan and I. After waiting for about 10 minutes we see a little white Suzuki Swift come speeding around the corner. It parks, and out comes Gudlaug with a smile on her face, greeting us with a warm hello.

As we help her get her belongings for the day into our Defender, we asked her if she knew how to get to the infamous plane crash location and with a sarcastic tone she said "What is that?". There were so many things I had wrong about what type of character this Icelander would be. Shy? Wrong. Hard to work with? Wrong. 23? Wrong. That last one is kind of a joke, but sometimes you look at somebody and think; there is no way this person is 18. Right from the start I knew she was full of humor, sarcasm, and had genuine interest in others.

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iceland-portrait-photographer

Our first time (Ryan and myself) driving down the Southern coast of Iceland was incredible and almost unbelievable. Little did we know we would do it 5 more times in 12 days. Gudlaug directed us almost our entire trip, this girl knew where everything was without even flinching or hesitating. It was insane to me, since I can't make it down the street in Portland without pulling up Apple Maps. Almost every 10 kilometers I wanted to stop and take a photograph. Gudlaug would laugh at Ryan and I because we were so mesmerized by everything that our eyes saw. It's hard to explain but I felt at home.

We were about an hour away from Reykjavik at this point. Roughly halfway to our destination. I had so much euphoria weighing on my heart and mind at this point. Gudlaug starting telling us about Icelandic culture and about herself. How schooling works, what she had and hadn't seen in her country, how she got into modeling, and so on. Half an hour later and we were all communicating like we knew each other for years. It made not having a working radio really not that bad after all.

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After talking for a while. I jokingly asked Gudlaug how many times she had seen the plane crash. She looked at me with such mischief and told me that she had never been there. The more our friendship grew as the trip went on, the more we realized how incredibly insane this girl was and how breathtaking it was. Ryan in a some what serious voice asked her back. "So you know exactly how to get to this place that is 3 hours away in the middle of a black sand beach without ever going there?". She just looked at him and laughed, then proceeded to tell us when the next turn was.

10 minutes later, she was unsurprisingly correct on where to turn. We entered into the black sand beaches of Sólheimasandur. Ryan and I were both speechless. This dark and what seemed infinite stretch with one muddy road trail that we started to drive down. I peeked from window to window trying to spot the plane ahead, and about 6 kilometers laters we arrived. I can't explain it, but pictures can't do this location justice. I was in awe and so eager to create. I later learned that it was a Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane that was forced to land and that everybody survived.

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Ryan pulled right up to the airplane wreckage as I helped Gudlaug pick out what she was going to wear. I am the first to admit that I can not style somebody to save my life but luckily she knew what I wanted and brought exactly the right clothing. Ryan pulled out his Black Magic Cinema camera as I loaded my Pentax 67 with film. Gudlaug was an incredible model, knowing exactly what pose and what mood to convey during each slap of my shutter. As we continued our shoot, I can remember all the genuine laughter that we had. It seemed that the shoot was obsolete at this point and we all just enjoyed each-others friendship and company. I know how hard it is to try and find where we fit in and where we belong. I truly think Bernard M. Baruch said it best. "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.".