As if taken from the depths of her imagination, the surreal photos of Galicia-based Carmen Marchena Alonso effortlessly spark awe among intrepid travelers hungry for a surreal, postcard-worthy landscape. For the curious and the wanderlust-driven, her playground for these images is Greenland, which is usually bleak and barren to those who have seen only the island’s austere-looking side.
Using her Leica M6 and a wide variety of films, Carmen repaints Greenland’s frigid expanse and jagged mountainsides into pastel panoramas and fanciful views. Far from mere documentations of her frequent explorations, she sees each photo opportunity as a chance to “show the true essence of this land combined with the way my camera and I see it.”
Check out our interview with Carmen to find out what she thinks about Greenland and what makes it a fascinating destination for every wanderer!
Can you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do? How long have you been shooting with film? Anything keeping you busy or inspired aside from film photography?
I’m a little person in the big cosmos who loves the mountains and all kinds of life. Sometimes, when my life allows me, I take photos of the beauty around me. I think I remember shooting with film when I was 15 years old, so … it’s a long time ago. Apart from photography, I dedicate my time to my job (personal training), the mountains (especially ice and rock climbing), and my two cats.
You now travel to Greenland every summer, but can you still recall and tell us what it was like when you first set foot on the island? What were your first thoughts, feelings, or inhibitions? What is it that keeps you coming back whether for work or personal travels?
Greenland… It’s not easy to explain that feeling, that immensity and that isolation, especially feeling so small against the Universe. It’s all about learning, the knowledge of self, out of your daily life, to know how far you can get, surrounded by the silence. I saw and felt the pureness and wildness of beauty. Greenland in her silence, the sound of ice envelops you, calls you, and makes you return; and you cannot live without returning.
You mentioned that you occasionally work in Greenland as a kayak and/or trekking guide. Which spots or destinations do you cover for these guided trips? For the times you can explore the island on your own, what do you usually do?
Until now, I only work as a guide in Greenland. I hope to do that in other places in the future. When I have time off, I normally go kayaking next to the glaciers to hear their sound; sometimes I run up the mountains. I hope to go climbing someday up Nalumasortok or Ulamertosuaq (the big wall of south of Greenland).
We think your photos of Greenland are some of the most magical and surreal photos ever to be taken around the island. Has this look or mood always been what you wanted for your photos? To which aspect — camera, film, or lighting condition — do you attribute these interesting results?
Yes, it was what I really wanted for my photos, to show the true essence of this land combined with the way my camera and I see it. I think the results are the combination of light, camera and the different kind of film that I use, and also, I suppose, my soul.
We’re curious about the analogue cameras and films you use for these trips. Which ones do you typically bring with you, like a go-to camera and film combination? Any particular reason for these choices, given the conditions in Greenland?
I take with me my Leica M6 and a lot of various films to test (I really like testing different films), but sometimes when I have space in my bag, also I take my Pentax P30 or Smena, and my digital camera Fujifilm X-E1 for shooting the Northern Lights.
What do you consider to be the highlight of your trips around Greenland all these years? Any places of interest or landmarks to recommend to anyone thinking of visiting Greenland for the first time? Any time of the year that you believe would be best to visit for the most memorable Greenlandic experience?
For me, I believe that the most incredible way to travel is by kayak, but it’s also is hardest; it’s almost like an expedition, depending on ourselves in each moment. It will be forever be unforgettable. For me, the highlight of my trips was my guided kayak trip last summer. Because of the weather, all the big icebergs were on the fjords and I had to change my route constantly. Because of that, we discovered some beautiful places and we had to sail at dusk under the Northern Lights. The group and I were very, very happy as a result. This kind of experience really makes me happy.
Greenland is very big, and I only know the south of the island. I can say it’s best to visit this part for the first time because the weather is nice during summer, especially in August, when visitors can see the Northern Lights. It’s only possible from this month, because before that, there is literally no nighttime.
Can you give an important piece of travel advice for film photographers like yourself, especially for those who would like to traverse and document the intriguing and often harsh Greenlandic landscape?
Of course! First, be careful with the cold, as it causes batteries stop working very fast (this is especially for digital photographers), the best solution is to take with you a lot of batteries. Other points to remember is to wear the right clothes for the weather, bring a tripod for photographing the Northern Lights, and pack a lot of hope!
Lastly, if you could take just one camera and one roll of film to a dream destination, where would it be, which camera and film would you bring, and what will you make sure to take photos of?
Without a doubt I’d choose my Leica M6, and use Fuji Velvia RPV 100 or Lomochrome 100-400 Turquoise. I would go to Mongolia or the Atacama desert.
To see more of Carmen’s photos around Greenland, please head to the link below: