Europe Iceland Photo Essays

Looking Beyond Instagram | Iceland

February 16, 2018

By Lauren Kesler

I have wanted to visit Iceland since before it became trendy on Instagram. The fascination was born while I was studying in London. I am not sure when or why it all started, but at least once a week my roommate and I would gather in our kitchen, listen to Of Monsters and Men, and talk about our road trip to the mysterious land we knew very little about (as I said, pre-Instagram fame Iceland). Unfortunately, travel stars do not always align and we never went on that trip, and Iceland remained number one on my dream destinations list for the next three years. Then, this fall my mom and dad thoughtfully agreed to bring two of their three adult children (the third could not come, but would have been welcome) on a vacation with them and so, I was finally going to Iceland! We arrived in Reykjavik on a dark, cold morning in October. We climbed into our rented camper van and away we went. We spent the next eight days traveling the entirety of the two-lane Ring Road. We traversed the otherworldly and stark landscapes, all while trying to figure out how to stop the food storage drawer from swinging open every time we made a left turn. When away from tourist areas, we could go hours without seeing another car or human. I spent half of my time with my head in my camera, determined to capture scenes like the photographers that inspired me most, and the other half seeking out toilets, which appeared hard to come by in the off-season when drifting from the tourist path. When we passed towns, I found myself attempting to fathom how the population of an entire country was roughly that of the city I grew up in.

It is funny how the act of traveling has changed so much in just the few short years since I planned my Icelandic adventure to the sound of rain falling in an urban metropolis that felt like home. At that time, Instagram was still gaining traction. I was mostly following personal friends, posted primarily so my mom knew what I was up to, and certainly was not following the hundreds of photographers and bloggers I do today. In many ways, the rise of Instagram has made me a better, more inspired photographer, constantly learning from professionals in the industry. But in the same breath, the rise of “do it for the ‘gram” has completely changed the way we travel- a fact that became clear to me while huddling next to six other photographers in a small river at the base of a popular Icelandic waterfall. As a travel photographer, I find myself in a constant battle- to compete, to stand out, to hide the crowds and tour buses in the shot, but also to remember why I travel and photograph in the first place. Not for the likes, but for capturing the moments of wonder, awe, and laughter that turns us all into storytellers.

Lauren is a documentary filmmaker and photographer born ten minutes from Disney World in Florida, USA. She has also resided in Boston, London, and Stockholm. She loves living out of a backpack, sleeping in hostels, and stargazing at 30,00 feet. She hopes that her film and photography will allow her to do all of those things more often under the guise of “work.” She currently resides in her parent’s house while she plans her next adventure.

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