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Updated: Mar 30, 2023

The Art of Quieting the Restless Mind

KYRRÐOGFRIÐUR means “Peace and Quiet” in Icelandic. While travelling around Iceland, Cranbrook-based photographer Neal Panton experienced an overwhelming silence. According to Neal, the Icelandic landscape has the unique ability to quiet the restless mind.

Growing up in a blue collar, immigrant family in Hamilton, Ontario - an industrial city one hour from Toronto - exposed Neal to a great variety of people, cultures and points of view. Within the family, photographs were always being shared. This was how Neal got to know the family overseas and how his family shared their experience in Canada. It was through these early experiences that Neal developed an understanding of visual language.

Neal is a self-taught photographer. After taking one night school course in the basics of photography, he got his first camera at the age of 22. Most of Neal’s photography and art education has come from books and observation. Neal has worked as a university professor of Photography and Visual Language, and he spent a year as a photojournalist for Reuters news agency.

Photography has been Neal’s main creative outlet since 1984 because it is closely associated with reality. Playing with this expectation helps him find his particular photographic point of view and personal style. As Neal often presents his work in black and white, he has had to train his eyes to see in that way, always keeping the final product in mind. Neal’s work is a combination of intuition and skill, and he creates photos that are reflective rather than passive. In this reflection viewers can discover their own unique meaning and deeper connection to the image. He uses digital cameras and also scanners to create his photography. Using photoshop, Neal creates photographs that resemble the darkroom photography process that highlights his particular style; “I have been told often that my photographs don’t look like photographs”. Photography is Neal’s way to communicate and form alliances in the world. People often respond to his images with their own narrative; Neal’s photo, their story.

Neal’s latest solo art exhibition entitled, “KYRRÐOGFRIÐUR” is contemplative rather than impressive. Neal wants the viewer to sense the simplicity and timelessness that he felt in Iceland. When Neal was travelling in Iceland, he felt relaxed and refreshed rather than hurried and exhausted and he says “my mind seemed to be at ease”.

Neal explains what made him decide to use the Icelandic version of “peace and quiet” - “KYRRÐOGFRIÐUR” - as the title of this exhibition, ”My wife and I were staying at a rural country hotel in Strandir about halfway through our visit to Iceland. In the foyer was a card with the Icelandic words for “Peace and Quiet” repeated over and over. I immediately felt that it summed up many of my feelings in Iceland. There is this overwhelming silence that feels timeless and secret”.

When asked what Neal’s challenges were when creating this exhibition, he explains that Iceland is a premier location that attracts millions of visitors per year and many of them are photographers. Every social media outlet features endless photos of Iceland. Neal says, “What I wished to capture was how it feels to inhabit Iceland’s landscape. For me it feels like it has never changed. It has virtually no trees in the landscape and feels so calm and empty. It was difficult to pull myself away from the grand vistas and impressive waterfalls and photograph Iceland in a more simplistic way. I wanted to capture photographically the unique ability the Icelandic landscape has to quiet the restless mind.

To Neal, the opportunity to show an entire body of work in one space is both a privilege and a pleasure. Neal says, “It doesn’t happen enough for me. I would exhibit several times a year if I could”. Neal was committed to putting Iceland in print and wanted the prints to carry the impact of the serene. Neal continues, “I enjoy living with a body of work for some time to make my own new discoveries about my photographs. Over time I can separate myself from the photographs and see the work anew”.

Neal’s photography exhibition will be available at Art Gallery Kimberley and online on their website ( from March 29 until April 15, 2023. Everyone is welcome to join Neal for his artist talk and the opening reception on Saturday, April 8, 2023 from 2 to 4 pm.

Check out Neal's slideshow and get a feel for the exhibition:

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