Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir

Written By: Logi Thor Baldursson | Nov, 2022
Photo: Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir

It’s a another day here in Borås Sweden, the autumn gloom has lingered for the past two months. Clouds have barricaded any sunlight in the upper atmosphere, only allowing rays of gray to pass. 


Rebekka is notably late, I wonder what the hold up is. I double check to see if I have sent the invite link to the video meeting, In all fairness I did, although it was to myself.

After our minor hick-up and greetings have been exchanged I query how she ended up traveling the path of life as a photographer and how she got introduced to the camera.


“The happenstance of it all was with my fathers camera photographing myself, series of self observation at a fragile time in my life in my early twenties.”


– So a selfie before the selfie?

“Yeah kind of, except it I did it for introspection.”


As we go on she shares the love she had for Black & White films in the dark room and how she obtained her brand new Canon IXUS; a big smile lights up her face as she mentions her old camera.


It’s still raining here in Sweden, but suddenly it isn’t as gloomy anymore.


That camera was the instrument in her rise to fame, she joined this new website called Flickr which had just launched and within six months she went from being unknown to the most popular person on the site.

“I was one of the O.G’s”.

“As I studied at Reykjavík University of Art, I experimented a lot and uploaded everything online, opening up and talking about my life. I was super weird, but very sincere.”


–You must have gotten a large variety of different types of messages? 


“Yes, through sharing your life online people become attached, you become an old ‘friend’ of theirs, I had a lot of different types of messages and interactions. It was amazing to hear from young women especially, having influenced their life in a positive way. That’s what mattered. But then you also have another type of messages from middle aged men…”


’The skin on my feet and
hands had turned purple from the cold

Unbeknownst to all, the model in most of Rebekkas images is actually herself, therefore making many of her photographs self portraits. So I question Rebekka regarding her auto portraits, on the hardships regarding the setup and the photoshoot itself If anyone has ever attempted self portraits before, they know
what I am talking about…


“Today I wish I had a separate camera for the sole purpose of recording ‘behind the scenes’ of each photo shoot, it would be spectacularly funny, in the end I always get the right frame, but the process of capturing that ‘perfect’ frame is far from being elegant, there are so many speed bumps and inconveniences on the way. I am often half dressed running from scene to camera, from camera to scene in the unforgiving Icelandic weather conditions, during autumn, winter, spring & summer”.


Here I jump in and ask if her photo “Sacrifice” was one of those difficult examples.


“I took so many photos in that session, I had been walking and posing to try get ‘The Image’, in the end I got it, but when I finally returned back to my car, the skin on my feet and hands had turned purple from the cold.

I just realized I was prone to put myself in a lot of cold scenarios.

I actually got a big kick out of it, you get an additional sense of accomplishment I realize when the journey for the photograph is more difficult, I guess the difficulties of the photographs aided in shining a spotlight onto them as well.

When I was doing this back in 2005 people thought of my projects as absurd!

Those are my favourites, the ones where I had to push through hardship to capture, all alone.”

’The photos that tell a story

“I never had an assistant, although I do realize that someday I need to learn to work with other people, as I have many other amazing ideas which I would not be able to construct solo.” She says laughingly.

–I find underlying darkness in some of your photos that I can relate to, some are quite heavy but as an fundamental tone, beneath the surface somehow.

The photo is beautiful and has amazing scenery, but there is a heaviness creeping from below.

I move onto another question.

–Your passion for photography, is it something that you need to work on? Meaning does it feel like ‘work’ to you?


“No! It’s absolutely pure passion, completely. It always has been, when I’m puzzling together my own photographs.
I’ve noticed I always feel my best when I am photographing, my anxiety for example completely evaporates as soon as I have the camera in my hand. It’s like therapy, it’s hard to put into words but when capturing landscape photos, being alone in nature, whether it be under the northern lights or when you are in the middle of a field, manipulating the light from the moon.
It gives you some sort of ‘power’, it gives something back. I’m not doing this for money.”

Af Jörðu ertu Komin

The conversation leads onwards and we laugh about the time when she was younger and did a few gigs as a confirmation photographer, as she had her hands full photographing socially awkward teens, Rebekka does not miss those photo-shoots one bit.


– How does the whole creative idea process work regarding your self portraits as an example, do the ideas come up spontaneously or do you have a premise that you type down and work up ideas around it?


“I never write anything preemptively, I actually used to have a lot of ideas in my dreams whilst asleep, often I have an idea
in mind, but whilst going to a set location, something completely else comes to mind, for example “Af Jörðu ertu Komin” I was on my way to take some photos of horses, driving towards a fjord not too far from Reykjavík and ended up with something completely different.

Sometimes ideas change or get replaced, often for the better. I didn’t think I would ever dare to share the photograph. It’s funny, today there’s nothing very ‘daring’ about posting such a photograph, but at the time I felt otherwise. Had to retake that photograph quite a few times, I felt really uncomfortable, as I was right next to a farm without a lookout, running from the set to the camera back and forth.”


– I guess if ideas come to you in your sleep about a subject you have to have a certain amount of fanatical interest/passion for it.

I wish that some of my best work could also be constructed in my sleep I mumble to myself.

’It’s something I wanted to capture’

– Nocturnal episode, it feels rather out of worldly, is the concept of that photograph perhaps developed in your sleep?


“No, but! I had a vision for this window frame, that photo was calculated and planned. The idea came to me when I was younger and I was often restless at night, whilst laying in bed and looking out the window to see the sunrise, all alone, the only one awake, there was something, even though lonely, quite beautiful at those moments. It’s something I wanted to capture.”


“I spent a decade away from photography and only recently picked up the camera again, a spark reignited the love for my passion. I started a series by the name of “Daily Keilir”, photographing a mountain seen from my balcony, a photo every day. Iconic for its almost perfect symmetry. Six weeks later a volcanic eruption started right next to it, I took it as a sign. How ridiculous is it that as soon as I start photographing again a volcanic eruption photobombs my series? “


Well I’m sure many of us have experienced worse photobombs. Quite intriguing the fortuitousness of such events, regarding the volcano or even receiving abstract thoughts and ideas for your photo-shoots in your dreams, it really is quite majestic.


It makes me think of a quote I read somewhere, sometime…


“By believing passionately in something that does not yet exist, we create it.”   – Nikos Kazantzakis

Nocturnal episode

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