The beauty of the Icelandic landscape is not limited to volcanic phenomena, the mountains of igneous rock, the torrential rivers and thunderous falls, or the ice-filled glacial lakes; its vegetation is also a major attraction. The trees are dwarfed and stunted. Tundra covers much of the interior; arctic and alpine wildflowers bloom in seemingly unlimited abundance in summer. But the most striking contribution to Iceland's plant life is its mosses.
A consistent thread in Eliot Porter's photography is his scientific attention to detail; his ability to observe what often goes unnoticed. Iceland's luxurious mosses, which blanket the region instead of forests, first drew Porter to visit the island in 1972. This photograph displays their startling range of colors and textures. Rocks rounded and smoothed by river water are draped with splotches of rust, yellow, gold, and green.
In 1972, the Sierra Club published Iceland, a portfolio of twelve dye transfer prints in an edition of 110. Porter also wanted to publish a book on the subject, but he could not find a publisher. Undaunted, Porter persisted and seventeen years later, it was published. The book contains an essay by Porter's son Jonathan, who often traveled with him. In the foreword, Jonathan wrote: "Iceland possesses a primordial quality, as if one were a time traveler viewing an earlier formative age of the earth." Porter's close-up views, like this one, convey that uniqueness.