Two years ago, while attending a residency in northern Iceland, 32-year-old Catalan photographer Bego Antón came across an unusual course. “I stumbled across a website for the Icelandic Elf School,” she says. “I was amazed to find that you can actually graduate in elf issues. So I started investigating this hidden world.”
So began The Earth is Only a Little Dust Under Our Feet, a project exploring Icelanders’ steadfast belief in magic. According to Antón, who was selected for last year’s Joop Swart Masterclass, 54 percent of people on the island believe in elves, trolls, fairies, monsters and ghosts.
“The people here would never throw a stone in the air in case they hit an elf,” she says. “They are known to build roads with a deliberate kink to avoid bulldozing a rock where elves live. I wanted to find these magical beings and see them with my own eyes.”
Antón met dozens of Icelandic people across the country who have “the gift” – the ability to see and communicate with these creatures.
“Icelanders are really open and easy to reach,” she says. “Every single person I contacted agreed to meet me. They strongly believe in the existence of elves, so they aren’t afraid to talk about them.”
Antón combines images of the aurora borealis – the northern lights – with glistening stalagmites, evocative landscapes and still-life shots of objects related to elves, with portraits of the people she met along the way. And although we don’t see an elf, Antón captures something of the flavour of this ancient belief.
“The project reflects on the blurred lines that separate the possible from the impossible, the real from the unreal,” she adds. “If there was ever a place to believe in magic, Iceland must be it.”
Find more of Bego’s work here.
First published in the June 2014 issue. You can browse our back issues and complete your collection at the BJP Shop.