For a long time I thought that photographs showed the viewer what the world looked like. It wasn’t until college that I learned that a photograph could tell a story. While studying photography at Massachusetts College of Art I began a series of self portraits that now span 25 years. I was 18 years old when I began to take them. These self portraits helped me better understand who I was and what I hoped to become. I still continue to make these self-portraits, but in a new setting: in 2005 I married an Icelander and moved to a farm in the eastern part of Iceland.

In Iceland, the landscape and the weather are infinitely changing. Age and decay create a surreal world of rituals that may appear unappealing or in some cases, grotesque. The rituals of farming and hunting are slow, deliberate, and labor intensive. Fishing, hunting, planting and gathering are considered pastimes for many people in the developed world. The pace of farming is slow, dictated by nature, economy and sheer will. Farming, to me, can be seen as a physical manifestation of a human’s determination. A farmer’s efforts are uncertain; such a life choice seems noble.

The affects of a cross-cultural life inspires the characters that I create. Here in Iceland—a culture embedded with ancient sagas, myths of elves that live inside rocks and so on—I hear many voices that come to life.

My adult experiences have informed my sensibility and allowed me to expose the hidden world of the stories nurtured within my mind. As a woman, I interpret these cultural stories in a primal and sensual way. To embody what is sometimes ordinary, sometimes purely feminine and sometimes supernatural is to seek a way to make private images public.

I use a 4X5 view camera to create my images. From beneath my dark cloth, I compose the edges of a story that reveals my inclusion in a place. My photographs are the language that connects me to truths deep within myself. In that split second when the lens-shutter clicks, fantasy and reality become one.

—Agnieszka Sosnowska

Editors’ note: This deeply personal, photo-documentary report was a Series Winner in the LensCulture Visual Storytelling Awards 2015. Discover more inspiring work from all of the winners and finalists!