How one photographer captured Iceland during its brightest nights

How one photographer captured Iceland during its brightest nights

The photographs in Bastiaan van Aarle’s new book “01:20” suspend the sleepy fishing village of Ólafsfjörður, Iceland, in time.

Each captured at 1:20 a.m., the village’s darkest time of the night, the 31 images contained in the book chart the progressive dimming of light as the midnight sun begins to wane throughout the month of July. Taken together, the pages accumulate into a portrait of the town’s landscape.

“One of the remarkable things in Iceland is that the sun doesn’t set during summer,” reads the artist’s description of the project. “Because of Ólafsfjörður’s northern orientation the sun touches the horizon on the first of July and goes immediately back up again after that. The sun sinks more and more the following days until the nights return.”

"01 July 2017" from Bastiaan van Aarle's "01:20." © Bastiaan van Aarle.
“01 July 2017” from Bastiaan van Aarle’s “01:20.” © Bastiaan van Aarle.

The photograph’s components are stoic and still. In one image, soft light blankets a verdant valley, sliced open by a small stream. A coral-colored mountain peeks out from the edge of the visual field. Another presents an empty parking lot dwarfed by a mound of earth rising behind it.

Humans, it seems, are tucked away, enveloped in the natural and man-made architecture figured in the frames. Traces of their collective presence are represented in the structures they leave outside and the modest corrugated metal roofed homes and businesses that make up the town of approximately 880 people.

“It tells a lot about the culture, about the way that houses are built, how the people cooperate, what nature is like and how people have domesticated it,” van Aarle said in a statement.

"05 July 2017" from Bastiaan van Aarle's "01:20." © Bastiaan van Aarle.
“05 July 2017” from Bastiaan van Aarle’s “01:20.” © Bastiaan van Aarle.

The photos taken later in the series read as nocturnes, full of dark, dramatic colors that emerge from rocky mountain-sides and winding ravines in a palette similar to a Dutch master painting.

As a document of daily life in the Icelandic town, the project continues the artist’s exploration into seclusion and the merging points of industry and the natural world, offering an uncanny glance into the night.

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"11 July 2017" from Bastiaan van Aarle's "01:20." © Bastiaan van Aarle.
“11 July 2017” from Bastiaan van Aarle’s “01:20.” © Bastiaan van Aarle.
"14 July 2017" from Bastiaan van Aarle's "01:20." © Bastiaan van Aarle.
“14 July 2017” from Bastiaan van Aarle’s “01:20.” © Bastiaan van Aarle.
"19 July 2017" from Bastiaan van Aarle's "01:20." © Bastiaan van Aarle.
“19 July 2017” from Bastiaan van Aarle’s “01:20.” © Bastiaan van Aarle.
"26 July 2017" from Bastiaan van Aarle's "01:20." © Bastiaan van Aarle.
“26 July 2017” from Bastiaan van Aarle’s “01:20.” © Bastiaan van Aarle.
"29 July 2017" from Bastiaan van Aarle's "01:20." © Bastiaan van Aarle.
“29 July 2017” from Bastiaan van Aarle’s “01:20.” © Bastiaan van Aarle.
"31 July 2017" from Bastiaan van Aarle's "01:20." © Bastiaan van Aarle.
“31 July 2017” from Bastiaan van Aarle’s “01:20.” © Bastiaan van Aarle.

Bastiaan van Aarle’s “O1:20,” available in the U.S. Sept. 17, 2019, is published by Hatje Cantz.

Top Image: "02 July 2017" from Bastiaan van Aarle's "01:20." © Bastiaan van Aarle.