Katrin Olafs: The female identity and getting back to nature
"I like to find beauty within the strange, and it is the notion of locating new shapes, patterns and movements within the landscape or the architecture of a big city, and celebrating the unfamiliar."
"Art makes the familiar strange so that it can be freshly perceived", stated Victor Schlovsky at the start of the twentieth century. Such defamiliarization seems to play a significant role in the works of Icelandic fashion and fine art photographer Katrin Olafs. Avoiding the seen-so-many-times-before angles, Katrin plays with forms, designs and minimalism in a bid to manifest a striking commentary on our perception of women in the digital age.
Katrin graduated London College of Communication earlier this year and has already exhibited internationally, collaborated with very exciting brands and is now represented by Dottir Management in Iceland. We spoke with Katrin to find out about the influences in her work and her future plans.
Junko: At the center of most of your projects - a woman. Could you guide us through what is it that interests you about womanhood?
Katrin: My work reflects on the social perception of the female body and how women are being presented by the media. With my work I try to strip down all unrealistic expectations we have towards images of women by creating a new way of looking at women: as their simple selves, simply humans. The perception of our own bodies is changing constantly and in a world full of images we are extremely aware of our own looks and appearance. I'm fed images of models by the media and instantly start comparing myself to an unrealistic expectation of what a woman should look like. In turn, I try to create images that refrain from enhancing existing feelings of jealousy and comparison and rather try to create images that welcome you to experience and join.
J: When photographing women, you often portray them in experimental angles. Could you tell us more about the concept behind it?
K: I regularly juxtapose the movement of my model with the form of either architecture or nature. Combining the nature of the female form with the urban nature of the city or the uncanny landscape of Iceland, my home country.
J: Just recently the world was inspired by the day the women of Iceland went on strike for equal pay with men. How important are such discussions in Iceland and how different does feminism seem in London?
K: Gender equality and feminism are very serious subjects in Iceland and in recent years have grown to become one of the key things Iceland is known for, which is great! In 1975, over 25,000 Icelandic women walked out of their jobs and offices, proving their indispensability. My mother was one of these women and she still talks about how amazing it felt to be amongst all these women on that day. This was repeated in October 2016, this time going viral and spreading globally. It feels as though the women of Iceland are taking a lot of action towards feminism nowadays.
J: In the projects “Enigmatic Elements”, “Exposed Unexposed”, “Erratic Elements”, nature seems to be playing a significant role. How has growing up in Iceland and then moving to the UK influenced this?
K: Moving from a small island, where the powerful landscape, teeming with grand natural gestures, is easily accessible, to a big urban city like London, the juxtaposition between the two has influenced my work very much. I like to find beauty within the strange, and it is the notion of locating new shapes, patterns and movements within the landscape or the architecture of a big city, and celebrating the unfamiliar.
J: How do you feel about the increased tourism in Iceland and its cultural export to overseas?
K: Tourism in Iceland has had a massive boom in the last 5 years or so. This of course has had many great and positive effects, for example by increasing jobs and opportunities and for helping Iceland get out of its big recession. The few bad things that have developed in light of this boom is that hotels are now rising all over our capital, Reykjavik, replacing some of our historic old buildings that create the city’s identity. Prices are rising as well, which is making it very expensive for the Icelanders to live and to travel within our own country. But aside from this, I am very happy to see my country becoming increasingly popular overseas, I am very proud of the amazing nature and landscape I got to enjoy growing up there and feel like everyone should have the opportunity to come and explore it!
J: How important is the clothing, or the clothing brand, to the concept of your photographs?
K: When I am shooting in Iceland I make sure to always use the up-and-coming Icelandic designers who compliment the images well as the designers very often seek their inspiration in the patterns and textures of the Icelandic landscape.
J: If compared, how different is the fashion industry in London and in Iceland?
K: Independent fashion labels are very popular in Iceland, and from what I know the designers are happy to work together and to help each other out, whereas in bigger fashion cities such as London and New York, the industry seems far more competitive and the pressure is extremely intense. Iceland is a small country and the creatives seek inspiration and creative stimulation from each other.
J: How important is the presentation of the finished piece to you?
K: With my work, my final work usually ends up being large prints - most of my images represent women and the landscape, so I feel the need to show them on a large scale.
J: What are you currently working on and how do you see your work developing?
K: I just got back from Milan where I was exhibiting photos from my project ‘Enigmatic Elements’ along with other great photographers as part of Photo Vogue Festival. My future plans are to continue to explore the representation of women in the media and continue to pay my tribute to a new way of looking at women that will insist a return to our simple selves, as humans, in a landscape.
Photographs of Katrin Olaf's work, by: Agne Kucinskaite
Photography by: Agne Kucinskaite
Photography by: Agne Kucinskaite
Written by Agne Kucinskaite
Dec 13th 2016