"The great function of poetry is to give us back the situations of our dreams.”
Sitting along the Mid-Atlantic ridge, so much of Iceland’s beauty is physically rooted in the separation of the Earth. Yet among the violent forces of the land, the people of Iceland and Mother Nature have coexisted the island, transforming a landscape that continues to transform itself. Immediately, the duality of the people and the land creates a social dynamism, mutually hosting one another.
The photograph itself is continuously fleeting, separating itself from the past; a photograph will never replace the past. However, it begins to describe the present with more conviction. Lewis Kostiner in “ICELAND: June 2012” understands the dynamic interplay between the land and its inhabitants, Them, and invites viewers to be a part of his sociological expeditions. Boundaries are made and crossed; artifacts are left and taken, all in favor of a unified existence, despite their simultaneous separation. Without one, the other cannot reveal its full potential. Photographs (the land) inspire us, not by what is seen, but by what is imagined afterward.
In Dust and Markers, the landscape is vast, nearly empty. The photographic moments between each image seem as far and wide as the land, physically and temporally. Along with the portraits in Them, each image does what every other image cannot do for itself; together they begin to describe an archetypal land, not so far from our imaginations or our fantasies of Iceland. As these images become rooted in a reality, the assertion of force (man or nature), however minimal, shows itself in the hidden boundaries of invisible fences and dusty drafts of wind.
These photographs create a map, a memory, a person, and a place for the viewer of a landscape in tension—tension between itself and its inhabitants—all made more vital by the boiling earth underneath. Artifacts in the Landscape gives the viewer perspective, questioning the Artifacts, the Rocks and Markers, and Them. Could the windsock exist without the hills or could the land exist without the photographer’s visual definition? Rather than thinking in imbalance, it is possible to think of coexistence. Kostiner is able to socialize and share the dynamics seemingly rooted in separation and tension. Viewers can attach their histories to the landscape, transcending space and time, locating themselves within their own memories in the photograph.
In opposition to Dust and Markers, the separation of forces is made visible in Rocks and Little Hills. The intrusions in the landscape begin to form as hills in the terrain all while these rocks and hills and fragments are taken out of the earth in the form of souvenirs. Back and forth the land and its inhabitants give and take.
Through a journey of carefully presented photographs, the viewer is given an opportunity to freely navigate a landscape, through the paths set by Lewis Kostiner but also by the subjective paths of their own memories. Written with wisdom Gaston Bachelard reminds us that, “it is impossible to receive the psychic benefit of poetry [photography] unless these two functions of the human psyche–function of the real and the function of the unreal–are made to cooperate.”