When shooting people, one of the most essential aspects is the silhouette of your subject—for a moment, forget about expressions, lighting, and concept, and let your eyes outline the body of your subject. Notice the way it guides you through the frame, drawing you in and conveying emotion without the need for detail or technicality. We caught up with one photographer who has published two books by capturing the beauty of the silhouette in his portraits.

Agent Fresco, rockband
© Jonatan Gretarsson

Icelandic photographer Jonatan Gretarsson, born in 1979, has been working full time as a photographer since he was 20 years old. For most of his initial seven years in the business, he focused on commissioned work, but by 2006, he decided to expand his personal creativity. It was then that he moved to the US with his wife, and began bringing his own visions to life.

In 2008, Jonatan started creating portraits for a solo exhibition to be held in January 2009 at the Hafnarborg Museum. The result is his Silhouette series, featured in his Dripbook portfolio. “The exhibition was all about the artist’s face and featured portraits of Icelandic artists,” he said.

Amundi & co, graphic designer and his family
© Jonatan Gretarsson

To shoot them, Jonatan used a medium format digital camera, giving him greater detail and depth. “All of these are shot with Phase One,” he adds.

“I decided to go for hard direct lighting with spotlighting on the person’s face, to keep the rest of the body in a silhouette. It didn’t matter if it was a close up or a standing pose, my lighting had to be very accurate, since I wanted the photographs to be very graphic. I prefer little or no retouching in Photoshop, other than legacy techniques used in the darkroom from the past when shooting film.”

Asdis Sif Gunnarsdottir, visual artist
© Jonatan Gretarsson

David Orn Halldorsson, visual artist
© Jonatan Gretarsson

The exhibition was followed by a book, which led Jonatan to start shooting bands, using the same lighting concept to spotlight the lead singers’ face.

Greifarnir, musicians
© Jonatan Gretarsson

“When it comes to a style, in my personal projects I always work with a concept where I try to create a body of work. Usually it’s just something that comes to me that I find the need to produce.”

Hjalmar, reggaeband
© Jonatan Gretarsson

Jonatan now has two books published, the first showcasing only photos of Icelandic artist while the second was far more diverse. “It also included portraits of drag queens, cityscapes, BDSM, Hells Angels, body builders and a kid.” Currently, he is working on a third book, as well as a new solo exhibition, “which I have yet to decide where to hold.” But Jonatan’s work can meanwhile be seen in museums and galleries across Europe. Check out the locations below:

Jon, artist
© Jonatan Gretarsson

For more of Jonatan’s work, see more shots from his Silhouette series below and check out his Dripbook portfolio

Margret Blondal, visual artist
© Jonatan Gretarsson

Megas, artist
© Jonatan Gretarsson

Petur Ben, musician
© Jonatan Gretarsson

Ragnar Kjartansson, visual artist
© Jonatan Gretarsson

Sjon, writer
© Jonatan Gretarsson