Iceland revisited






Landscapes that are shaped by vulcanos and earthquakes are among Iceland’s strongest features – just as its horses as they go back to the island’s first settlers over a thousand years ago.


By Camilla Alfthan, photos Atli Thor Alfredsson



Horse Island is an apt description of tiny Iceland in the middle of the Atlantic Sea. With 319,000 inhabitants the country is also the home to some 80,000 horses. For the past millennium they have been isolated from any other breed, as those who go overseas are never allowed to return again.


For the Copenhagen based photographer, Atli Thor Alfredsson, Iceland is a continuous source of inspiration.

”Whenever I go home I always head straight for the countryside.  What I love the most is the sense of liberty and calm. Nature hits you straight in the heart. Just twenty minutes away from the city you’re out in the wilderness.  Now that I live abroad, I appreciate the rawness and the beauty of the nature more than ever before,” he tells.


The mountains hold many different images that change with the seasons. The autumn colours are my favourite. The green moss on the lava is the same all year round and it mixes nicely with all the other colours that change around it. Sometimes I go south to Jökulsárlón where the frozen waters from the glaciers are blue and icebergs drift around in the lagoon,” tells Atli who grew up in the capital, Reykjavik facing the Atlantic sea.


The Icelandic horse is an integrated part of the landscape – strong and sturdy with a characteristic thick mane and locks that often cover the eyes. 


”I was always impressed by their strength and ability to work. They are a part of the local way of living,” tells Atli who photographed the story at a farm in Southern Iceland near Eyjafjallökull where a volcano famously erupted in 2010, spreading its ashes in huge, black clouds which interrupted air traffic on the European continent. Though the surroundings remained pitch black for a number of days it all went away with the first rainfall. 


“Nature hits you straight in the heart. Just twenty minutes away from the city you’re out in the wilderness.” 


As the horses have always roamed more or less freely, their natural selection has played a major part in the development of the breed.


Historically, stallion fights were an important part of the local culture – a stage for friends and even enemies to battle without human losses, for lovers to court – and the place to pick the best animals to breed.

Nowadays, selective breeding has become the norm and that was also the case with the scene that Atli documented in July 2012 with a stallion from a neighbouring farm.


”The stallion was set loose among the mares. He gathered them, ran around them and was very aggressive as he kept them together while making sure that no one  would leave the group. They were his mares and some of them already had foals by him.  After a while, he chose one of them, pushed her away from the group, while he was very mean to her, and bit her backside. As I was lying in the grass photographing the scene witnessing his hostile behavior I was quite frankly a little bit afraid.”


Walking on ice





Grill Market Grillmarkaðurinn

with fresh produce from Iceland whether it is dairy products such as Skyr, fresh honey, lamb or even seal meat.

The design of the place is just as impressive as the menu –  a modern time Jugend style held in dark, wooden tones.

Lækjargata 2A
Fish Market

Mostly fish fresh from the sea, some of it cooked on a Japanese Robata grill, and lots of local produce. Fish market is situated in one Iceland’s oldest buildings in a beautiful design. Great place for cocktails, too.

Adalstræti 12

Kaldi Bar

After a day shooting it is the best place for a beer.

Laugavegur 20b