Originally published in 2016, this second expanded edition coincides with an exhibition at The Royal Photographic Society in late 2019, marking the first UK showing of the project. The recipient of the 2016 Bar Tur Photobook Award and shortlisted for the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation First PhotoBook, the first edition quickly sold out and appeared on many books of the year lists. Incorporating developments that have taken place within the case following an appeal in 2018 in Iceland’s Supreme Court, this second edition features additional text by expert witness Professor Gisli Gudjónsson CBE, and a foreword by Erla Bolladóttir, one of the six prosecuted.
Forty-five years ago in 1974, two men went missing in separate incidents in Southwest Iceland. The facts of their disappearances are scarce, and often mundane. An 18 year old set off from a nightclub, drunk, on a ten kilometre walk home in the depths of Icelandic winter. Some months later, a family man failed to return from a meeting with a mysterious stranger. In another time or place, they might have been logged as missing persons and forgotten by all but family and friends. Instead, the Gudmundur and Geirfinnur case became a notorious unresolved double murder investigation that continues to rock Icelandic society to this day.
Latham photographed the places and people that feature in the many varied accounts of what happened to Gudmundur and Geirfinnur after they vanished, resulting in his Sugar Paper Theories project. Spending time with the surviving suspects, as well as whistleblowers, conspiracy theorists, expert witnesses and bystanders to the case, Latham’s photographs and material from the original police investigation files stand in for memories real and constructed.
In the 1970s theories about the disappearances fixated on Iceland’s anxieties over smuggling, drugs and alcohol, and the corrupting influence of the outside world. The country’s highest levels of political power were drawn into the plot. Ultimately, a group of young people on the fringes of society became its key protagonists. All made confessions that led to convictions and prison sentences. Yet none could remember what happened on the nights in question.
A public inquiry and subsequent appeal uncovered another story, of how hundreds of days and nights in the hands of a brutal and inexperienced criminal justice system eroded the link between suspects’ memories and lived experience. In September 2018 all but one of those prosecuted were acquitted by Iceland’s Supreme Court. The fight to clear the remaining suspect of perjury charges in this heinous crime continues while the real perpetrator(s) has never been caught.
Professor Gisli Gudjónsson CBE, a former Reykjavik policeman and forensic psychologist, whose expert testimony and pioneering theory of ‘memory distrust syndrome’ helped free the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, and who was central to the Gudmundor and Geirfinnur inquiry, provides a detailed written account of the case. Updated since the first edition of Sugar Paper Theories, Gudjónsson’s text examines the investigation in light of the subsequent appeal.
An introduction by Erla Bolladottir, the only one of the six prosecuted whose charges, for perjury, remain in place, reveals first-hand what it was like to have one’s memories and actions unrepentantly put into question and infiltrated by those whose job it is to supposedly preserve the truth.