A talk with … Gabrielle Motola

The first interview for  this years STEYPA Photography Exhibition belongs to Gabrielle Motola, author and photographer from the USA, the UK and Iceland. She lets us know more about her book “An Equal Difference”, photography and her “heima”.


Gabrielle Motola

Gabrielle Motola

Your photographs are pictures from the book you published in 2016. What is this book about?

Many things, but equality is the undertow. I will go through each chapter and extract a word or phrase that it is about … sexism, divorce, healing and motocross, children and society’s responsibility, drug abuse prevention, mental sensitivity, crime and punishment, virtual reality, rehab, immigration, gender, music, swimming, power, the earth, visitors and tourists. It’s an exploration of Iceland and why it is considered to be the most gender-equal nation on the planet, what makes the Icelandic character so, and what equality looks like on the ground.

In your book you write about many Icelanders, please name a few …

Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Katrín Jacobsdóttir, Inga Dóra Sigfusdóttir, Símon Sigvaldason, Jófriður Ákadóttir, Jóhannes Sveinbjörnsson, Andri Snær Magnason, Margrét Pala Ólafsdóttir, Kári Stefánsson, Hilmar Veigar Pétursson. The final list is about 60, but I spoke to nearly 100 locals.

You were born in the USA, lived for many years in the UK, now in Iceland. Where do you feel at home, what is “heima” for you?

Right now “heima er Reykjavík” but I feel at home in all those places.

What role does photography play in your life?

On the one hand, it’s kind of like a substance addiction without the decay. Most of my life is directed at supporting my habit and I get sick if I don’t do it. I’ve often looked at ways to make money with photography itself, but I find the muse leaves me when I call it to perform for someone else. So my true work is done altruistically and I bend it to fit into commercial endeavors. On the other hand, it has lead me to adventures, to meet interesting people, and to live in several countries and learn other languages. I have learned to pay more attention and become more aware through photographing. So I suppose it’s both my blessing and my curse.

Where can one buy your book? Who is the publisher?

You can get “An Equal Difference” online at www.anequaldifference.com/buybook. It comes in hardback and as an e-book. You can also buy a hardcopy at most bookstores in Iceland like Penninn Eymundsson. It’s a self-published book published by Restless Machinery in London. It’s distributed in Iceland by Salka Publishing.

You´ve been coming to Iceland regularly for four years now, having lived here for two. Have you noticed any differences as you’ve settled in here?

Yes, but not until about the 18th month. I use to think I loved hot weather but it actually drives me nuts. I love the weather here and actually crave it, I can not live well without pools. Icelanders are a tribe not used to foreign people integrating and as such can come off as standoffish or indifferent when that happens. Which is the polar opposite to how they come across when you are just visiting. Icelandic is very hard to learn but mostly because like the elves, it’s hidden from you. I would like to make a t-shirt saying “Every time you speak English to a foreigner trying to learn Icelandic, you kill a puppy.” But I don’t know how to google in Icelandic the kind of shop which might make it, so I haven’t taken action yet. Suggestions welcome!

Thank you, Gabrielle, for answering the questions. Enjoy Iceland!


Gabrielle’s homepage www.gabriellemotola.com

Proofreading: Melinda Kumbalek



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