Valery Zyuz

Windows of Iceland

Self Portrait project as a self therapy

I have been enjoying creating images since about the age of 15. For the time I was 28 years old photography became a source of relief and self-therapy.

I worked in a well-paid job, and the situation allowed me to travel quite a lot around the world. One would assume I should feel happy, but I wasn't. I was stuck, lacked a sense of direction, and felt empty. I traveled to fill that void with excitement and a feeling that I’m doing something.

After some years of traveling, it got to a point when the excitement of getting to new places died down, the feelings did not change, only the location did, it all felt the same. Taking pretty photos of exotic locations became boring and did not fill the void anymore. Just one place left on my mind the land of ice and fire, Iceland.

I gathered my photography gear, borrowed a drone from a friend, and booked a flight to Iceland. I imagined a beautiful place where I will be able to reflect on my life and feel at peace. This was my philosophical view on the upcoming trip, but the reality turned out a bit less poetic. I found myself driving for 4 hours every day on slippery roads through snow and rain, eating only toasts for two weeks, it felt lonely and sad.

Don't get me wrong, Iceland is an amazing place, a land of waterfalls, black sand beaches, and volcanos. However none of that got my attention and I barely used the gear that I brought with me, and besides, the weather was pretty crazy.

On the third day of my trip, after hours of driving through snow, I found myself in a small B&B room. I stood right in front of a huge window, framing the endless landscape. This window embraced the view and finally made me feel excited once again. I found comfort at this moment and felt safe and calm.

And from that moment on, I was on a quest to open every room where there is a window that will frame the landscape for me, and most importantly bring me excitement again. I started to feel this urge inside that I should photograph and catch these moments and windows. Any location I arrived at, the first thing was to take a photo of myself in front of a window. It occupied my thoughts and I became obsessed with taking the next photo.

The important part of it was that I was not trying to impress someone with my vacation photos from an exotic place. This trip was not about the place I came to, it was about me. The photographs were a reflection of the way I felt and not just a pretty photo. Their purpose became to comfort me in the moment of sadness, and bring the excitement back.

Taking these photos of windows in Iceland was a kind of therapy for me. It forced me to think about how I felt and present it in the form of an image. The process made me feel better. Instead of unwanted thoughts in my head, the feeling became enjoyable and turned into a beautiful photograph. I stopped having that lonely feeling anymore.

At one of the stops, the household dog decided to welcome me through the room window. It was a happy moment. The dog comforted me and made me feel home and safe. At this moment, I decided to adopt a dog when I will come back (I adopted an adorable pitbull, you can see her staring in my work sometimes). The photos were created based on a feeling inside of me, without any external influence. I documented moments that were very personal and important for me.

The last two photos of the series came out differently. I went outside and took photos through the window from the inside. I wanted to show the moment of leaving and moving forward. It symbolizes my way of leaving a comfort place and continuing with my way as my trip to Iceland was coming to an end.

At the beginning of my trip to Iceland, I felt tired and lost. I used my photography to concentrate on how I felt and dealt with the issue by photographing my feelings. Even today when I look at these photos I can feel both the sadness and the relief I had. For the first time, I created a series of photos that reflect my true feelings. It was a very personal project and a moment of truth. Creating these images that deal with my emotions felt like a unique power that I didn't know existed in me. As a photographer, it was my first step to take my photography more seriously and aspire to become a professional.