Human + Space

Minimalist Photographs Capturing Socialist Realist Architecture Balanced with Radiant Human Figures

Featured previously on The Plus, Slovakian visual artist and photographer Mária Švarbová, has launched an entrancing new series of photographs that place the human and surrounding architectures into balance, harmony and purity with each other. After studying Restoration and Archeology conservation at university, she fully dedicated herself to photography in 2010, making a name for herself in exhibitions all over the world, her images having featured on the covers of magazines such as DODHO and FotoVideo.

Entitled Human Space, Mária’s carefully constructed images were produced and shot at a still functional radio broadcasting house in the Slovak Republic, built during the Socialist realism period of 1963. “A lot of my projects are located in similar sites, built in socialist architectural style,” she said. “The reason is that I find this architecture minimalistic, functional and simple. Models can fit into this sceneries very well.”

Her compositions seem to tackle questions that have been at the forefront of the human imagination since the advent of modernism: the welding of humans with the artificial environment in an era of accelerating technological advances. Artists since the twentieth century have made varied approaches to the machine-age, some with sleek, streamlined images, others with dystopian science-fiction nightmares. It seems that Mária, however, has a more delicate perspective, albeit no less striking. Less concerned with industry and machinery, her architectures, heavily influenced by Socialist realism, comprise stairs, chairs, walls and ceilings. The mundanity of the chosen furniture is quickly off-set by compositions of striking red lines, such as can be seen in the beautifully crafted photograph with six people mounting the stairs.
Other images create a confusing blurring of affects: intense claustrophobia and purity of spirit, evoked by a sterilized white space in which a white-dressed human floats, suspended in the midst.

The human subjects in her photographs convey a vapidity of emotions, conveying their positions relative to the spaces they inhabit. There is an obvious message of difference; sharp juxtapositions such as in the spectacular image composed of red plushy chairs, placed in rows as if in a theatre, the horizontal placing of which contrasts with the vertical thin lines in the background, meanwhile the white human figure at the centre demands the eye’s attention. These masterful images therefore play audaciously with light, colour, shapes and rhythms, and with fantastic effect.

We caught up with Mária to discover more about Human Space.

THE PLUS: Why did you title the series Human Space?
Mária Švarbová:
I have titled the series Human Space, because they record various spaces of existence of different people. It’s when a person becomes part of the space. People create various types of spaces for other people where they spend their time, work, share thoughts, love each other and live.

TP: What’s the message you were hoping to deliver when you produced the series?
Human can exist as an individual or become part of something bigger. People in my series became part of one big entity. As if human and space became one (human + space). The series points out how important space is for humans and how humans shape the space they exist in. They take care of each other and help shape each other.

TP: The location was very specific – a radio broadcasting building. How did you choose this location?
The location selection wasnt driven by coincidence. I had this place in the back of my mind for some time already.

TP: Is the series made for Zuzana Hudakova, or it’s just an editorial collaboration?
Zuzana Hudakova is my scenic designer and friend. She contributed to the Human Space series as costume designer and we have fine tuned the final scenes together onsite. I have collaborated with Zuzka on multiple projects. We work together for more than one year.

TP: It seems your work is very much about human/human body and space, can we know the reason?
Yes, that is true. I focused on photographing people from the start of my photographic career. They are the main source of inspiration for me, people fascinate me. The space has no meaning without humans. It becomes empty, something is missing. Same goes the other way around. Humans have no meaning without the space, as if they didnt fit anywhere. The main focus of this series was to harmonize the humans and space.

TP: Your favourite books?
I dont have one. I love visual art. I love movies.