With a background in religious studies questioning mysticism to photography, a young artist Sabine Mirlesse  went to live three months in an artist residency in Iceland after receiving her Masters in Fine Arts in New York. Iceland--  mysterious, enigmatic and magical country where the earth breathes, moves and trembles and where earthquakes shift the landscape daily, where boiling lava forces its way its way up from volcanoes, where the ground bubbles falls concave and then expands - i.e. a land of life and death.

This is a land with a culture of stories and legends and where the link between people and their land is extraordinarily intense.

This is the beginning of an adventure under the double aegis of : the myth of the “Pompei of the North” i.e. the village that bravely survived the unexpected eruption of the Heimaey volcano in the 1970s  and, more surprisingly, a line from a Robert Frost poem called “ Directive” , taught in the American schools in the region the artist spent her adolescent years; a kind of a refrain constantly coming back to her during her stay in Iceland.

The last line of the poem is about the search for a water source, by digging far away and deep to find a physical spring but, also and most of all, our own identities.

Far away from reportage or documentary photography, the artist kept searching for this “source”, questioning the nature and strength of the link between the residents of the destructed village who chose to stay and battle the elements and the land they inhabit.

 Indeed, the Icelandic identity merges with the land as shown by an elderly couple who refused to leave in spite of the Government’s counsel. as it may be seen also in the faces coated with mud and their prints on the canvas. Under a layer of soil mixing grey and celadon green, faces become a united whole, summoning a primitive dimension harkening back to a period before “civilization”. Then, printed on a white canvas with rough edges, they reveal their organic shapes, and call to mind the very nature of the photographic medium as print, as well as the first hands printed onto the walls of pre-historic caves.

Here we witness something from the origin, something original and essential.

We also witness how proud these people are of their land. They have it in their blood and thus are able to merge with it as well as to fight its force when the volcano erupts.

The work of Sabine Mirlesse then shows us a magnificent wildness of incandescent lava, geysers’ spray, and grey mist transforming the earth into phantasmagorical landscapes, the huge excavations hollowing the ground – like the footprints of supernatural beings – but also the fabric that encloses and protects. There, we can see a young lady and her grandmother, both named Edda, wrapped in a thick and warm wool blanket in a protective cocoon.

Neither Atheist nor religious, Sabine Mirlesse nonetheless embraces the idea of streams of energy, the mysteries of the elements and the search for identity. It is not at all surprising that her next work will be about Armenia --a legendary country of Eden, like Iceland, which has bloomed in the middle of a space between, neither in Asia, nor in Europe and where, centuries ago, where the heart of another volcano once beat, a volcano named Ararat.


born in 1986 in the US. Lives & works in Paris


2008 – 2010
MFA Photography and Related Media, Parsons the New School for Design, New York

2004 – 2008
BA English Litterature and World Religions (double major), McGill University, Montréal, Québec

2006 - 2007
Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

EXHIBITIONS - selection

As if it should have been a quarry, La Galerie Particulière, Paris

- Hyper Active, Parsons Design Center, Shangai, China
- Against Nature, Gallery Ho, New York

- Marseille seen by 100 photographers, Bibliothèque Départementale, Marseille. Curator : Antoine d’Agata

- What matters now ?, Proposals for a new front page, Aperture Gallery, New york
- Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, SIM House, Reykjavic, Iceland
- Studio Vortex, Galerie Montgrand, Marseille

- Capture, The powerHouse Arena, Brooklyn. Curator : Michael Foley
- Parsons Graduate photography Thesis Exhibition, Arnold and Sheila Aronson Gallery, New York
- Projections, Atelier de Visu, Marseille


Magenta Foundation/Flash Forward Emerging Photographer, Toronto, Canada

2009, ’11, ‘12
Joop Swart Masterclass Nominee, World Press Photo, Amsterdam, Netherlands

2008 – 2010
The New School University Graduate Dean Scholarship, New York


2012, ‘14
Akos, Art Center of Social Studies, Yerevan, Armenia

Samband Íslenskra Myndlistarmanna (SÍM), The Association of Icelandic Visual Artists,
Reykjavik, Iceland

Atelier de Visu, Marseille Organized by Antoine d’Agata


- Lensculture, feature on Song of Fruit and Contention series

- The New Yorker Photobooth “Looking at Love” February 2014, feature on Preventricular Arrythmia series

- Interview Magazine, “Sabine Mirlesse and the Volcano” October 2013
- Time Magazine Lightbox, “Out from Under the Volcano: A Photographer’s Impressions from
Iceland” October 2013
- As if it should have been a quarry, first monograph, limited edition, Damiani ed. & D.A.P. Artbook
- Photo + Magazin, Seoul, Korea, feature on Preventricular Arrythmia series

- Feature Shoot, feature on Preventricular Arrythmia series
- M Magazine,  feature on Preventricular Arrythmia series
- British Journal for Photography, feature on As if it should have been a quarry
- GUP Magazin, feature on Preventricular Arrythmia series
- Site95, feature on As if it should have been a quarry

- Der Greif, feature on As if it should have been a quarry
- Dossier, feature on Going Home/dust/ashes series
- The Wild Magazine, feature on Going Home/dust/ashes series

- RearViewMirror Magazine, feature on Going Home/dust/ashes series
- Fotoritim Magazine, feature on Going Home/dust/ashes series
- Parsons Photography MFA Twenty Ten Thesis Catalogue
- Vision Magazine, feature on Going Home/dust/ashes series
- Burn Magazine, feature on Going Home/dust/ashes series


- Interview with Bill Hension, American Suburb X

- In conversation with Adam Broomberg & Olivier Chanarin, BOMB Magazin
- In conversation with Agnès Varda, BOMB Magazin

- In conversation with Ragnar Kjartansson, BOMB Magazin
- Interview with Lorna Simpson, Aperture Foundation Blog
- In conversation with Duane Michaels, BOMB Magazin

- Q+A with Britt Salvesen, Aperture Foundation Blog
- The Vulnerables : In conversation with Rineke Dijkstra, Art in America
- In conversation with Uta Barth, BOMB Magazin
- In Conversation with Tacita Dean, BOMB Magazin
- Seducing Galileo : Aleksandra Mir at the Whitney Museum, WhiteHot Magazin

- Studio visit with Gabriel Orozco, The Paris Review
- In conversation with Deana Lawson, WhiteHot Magazin
- In conversation with Elinor Carucci, WhiteHot Magazin
- Interview with Laurel Nakadate, WhiteHot Magazin

- In conversation with with Charlotte Cotton, Parsons Photography MFA Twenty Ten Thesis Catalog
- In conversation with Cay Sophie Rabinowitz, Parsons Photography MFA Twenty Ten Thesis Catalog
- Miroslav Tichy at the ICP and Howard Greenberg Gallery, WhiteHot Magazin
- In conversation with Shirin Neshat, WhiteHot Magazin

- Interview with Alessandra Sanguinetti, WhiteHot Magazin

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L'Islande fait grise mine

L'Islande fait grise mine


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