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'Henge to Henge' by Gabrielle Motola

1 May 2019

I’ve been a self-confessed motorcycle addict even longer than I have been addicted to image-making. So I decided it was time to combine the two passions and create a new body of work in the process. This image, from the Faroe Islands, is part of the resulting project, "Henge to Henge", a solo motorcycle journey from Stonehenge, England to the remote Arctic Henge in Iceland.

Between the years 2013 and 2016 I had flown back and forth between England and Iceland more than twenty times making “An Equal Difference", a book of photographs and text exploring Icelandic society. I wanted to experience the transition between lands and cultures in real time, and with a passport (while it lasted) that would see me through each border crossing without stopping. On September 11th 2017, I packed my bags with plenty of warm layers, two micro four-thirds cameras, some lenses, and headed from London to Iceland on a 250cc Kawasaki.

After crossing the channel at Folkestone into France, I rode through Europe, to the top of Denmark. At Hirtshals, I boarded a 56-hour passenger ferry to Iceland, which stopped off in the Faroe Islands before reaching its final destination. The Faroes archipelago of 18 islands is connected by a network of roads, sea tunnels, ferries and bridges and has a native population of around 50,000. In good weather, it is a motorcyclist’s paradise. However, when the British occupied these islands during the Second World War, they nicknamed them "The Land of Maybe”.

Sure enough, the next day I rode an hour to the neighbouring island of Vágar in near zero visibility, with frighteningly strong winds. The winding mountain roads which carved a hold along rocky cliffs (without railings) were breathtaking but terrifying on my light motorbike. The sights were breathtaking, the gusts of wind even more so and I did very little photographing en route.

Photographing by foot is far more convenient than by motorcycle, and much safer given the unpredictable late September Faroese weather. After arriving at my hotel, I took a stroll into town along the winding path down to the bay, which gave views of the fjords and the roads carved along their base. A modest house just across from the airport sat nestled in shrubs. If you visit this spot, you will not find it looking as it does here. The image, made with a full spectrum converted OMD EM5 camera, a 590nm infrared filter, and digitally manipulated, serves the imagination more than fact or document.

With colour infrared imaging, I am attempting to abstract notions of reality in the way that black and white photography does. In the colour correction phase, I often bring back elements of the image to its visible or "traditional" colour point, introducing the familiar alongside the unfamiliar. The process calls to mind a passage by G.K. Chesterton in his book Orthodoxy: “Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”

Gabrielle Motola studied psychology, film and photography at the University of Miami and the Spéos Institute in Paris, and has also worked as a professional photographic printer, an editor and colourist in cinema. She specialises in portrait, travel and documentary photography working in editorial and advertising.

Her personal work focuses on long-term projects, the subjects of which frequently evolve across immersive journeys that take her around the globe. She spent five years living in Iceland where she began working on her first book An Equal Difference in 2013, published in 2016. A collection of discussions, portraits and landscapes exploring the Icelandic mindset, An Equal Difference is inspired by our modern search for gender equality and shared humanity. 

In December 2018 Olympus chose her as their ambassador for documentary photography.

Gabrielle has kindly arranged a 20% discount for EPUK members for the month of May for books and ebooks. Use the code EPUK20 to access this discount.

Forthcoming exhibtions:

Galleri Fold - Emotional Landscapes April 27th - May 12th, 2019 Rauðarárstíg 12-14 Reykjavik 101, Iceland

StunPhoto Gallery - Henge to Henge May 7th - May 21st 2019 Hampstead Emporium, 12 Heath Street, London, NW3 6TE

AOP Awards - April 15 - May 31, 2019 One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London

See more work by Gabrielle Motola