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  • Greg Pitty

This Place




People are absent from my photographs. Can’t take them. And if I did, I would be doing them a disservice. Them or more likely the landscape they inhabited at that moment. It is simply that way. An acceptance and a preference.


Ghosts however, unseen yet riding the wind, will often wander those spaces. Listened for, heard and recalled.


The wind.


Keflavik. A grey North Atlantic afternoon and biting North Atlantic cold. Descending through low cloud across whitecaps and recalling the war-time convoys. The Cruel Sea with Jack Hawkins on the open bridge of Compass Rose.


A demountable car rental office outside which offered any number of add-ons as determined by the nature of Iceland’s weather. Optional cover for sand-blasted, pitted paint. Cover for wind too powerful to resist the unhinging of carelessly opened doors. But not cover for the unhinging of the driver in hand-to-hand combat with the turbulence. The roll and yaw as you fight the vehicle’s efforts to lift off and fly into the knife-edged obsidian from a roadway devoid of guardrails.

Wind wailing across a crater’s rim. Geothermal power station below, venting steam and wrenching basso moans. Jump high enough and you can land unsteadily a pace further on. Struggle to hear your own shouted words above the muffle and buffet and roar.


Illugastaðir, by a shallow, rippling, shingled shore.


Not the other thundering one of a few days before: black, smooth, malevolently steep and shifting, it took you by the feet and felled you, trying to outrun the incoming sea. And for a moment it had you, weighted and clambering, reaching to retrieve a lens cap but feeling only the chill breath of terror.


Illugastaðir, where the farmhouse once stood. Remembered now by old beams and stones. The act, the crime, the accusation.


But the wind this day is susurrant as it shuffles about the tussock plain. A shipless, endless, gently waving sea. Ponies, ragged, stout. Keg-necked and nickering.


Þrístapar, the place of three mounds. The first new minutes of light now in the wake of the leaving storm. Here, the sentence, the executions. Agnes and Friðrik, given global voice through the writing of Hannah Kent.

Á ÞESSUM STAÐ FOR FRAM

SIÐASIA AFTAKA Á ÍSLANDI

12 JANUAR 1830


The confronting images of contemporary tourists posturing, posing with necks on the low stone memorial. Theatrical grimaces, wild eyed.


But they are nowhere today. They are no-one.


No-one else is here, save for two of us driving the Ring Road anticlockwise around this island. Visitors. The tussocks, the ponies, the light, the wind and the ghosts, they are there at home in this place.


The others are absent. The field, calm.

Past in present, palm in palm.


____________



Greg was born in Australia and currently lives in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. His long professional life as an educator gave him the opportunity to live and work in Canada and Japan. His interests have always been writing, photography, reading and music.

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