This Photographic Novel Brings Loss Of Identity And Humanity Together To Create A Morbid Reflection

We’ve always admired the work of Slovakian photographer, Mária Švarbová, and have featured her work before on The Plus. Her latest series, SWIMMING POOL, is an uncanny mix of stark robotic movements and soft pastel colours. The subjects of Mária’s lens are stiff, emotionless and at the mercy of some hidden force – in this case, the person behind the camera – yet, there are beside of a body of water, a fluid substance. The two are in stark contrast with one another.


The photographs tell an evolving story, yet the emotions of the subjects are unchanging and though they are beside a pool and dressed accordingly, they are never allowed to enter the water – they could be anywhere. It is almost as if they are caught between the tick-tock of the swimming instructors stop-watch, always on the cusp of entering the water, bound to stare despondently at their rippling reflections.

The photos feel sanitary to a degree of unease and there is almost a morbid feeling in the shower images, the models – with their swimming suits around their ankles – rigid, naked and faceless. They are empty shells, nameless to us and seemingly to themselves. Their humanity is even further washed away in the post production of the images. Mária uses photoshop to give the photographs a painted feel – they could be oil paintings in a gallery somewhere – the figures only existing as a figment of the artist’s brush stroke. As if characters do not exist outside of the painting – they were birthed by the painter for the sole purpose of entertaining the viewer. They were designed to be scrutisined over and they to are doomed to this fate: stripped of identity and staring at their lifeless figures in the swimming pool.


We spoke to the Mária about photography, people and pastels.

The Plus: How do you describe your photography style?
Mária Švarbová:
From the start of my career I have always focused on photographing people; they are the main source of inspiration for me, people just 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 my series was to harmonize humans and spaces.
In my series, my subjects act as emotionless mannequins. Through blank stares, stiff poses and total absence of emotion, the series challenges the viewer to question the ingrained roles people play in society. Every image flows into another scene forming the overall narrative of the series — the emptiness and mindless inability to change one’s predetermined role in life in the the absence of emotion. Complex and dreamy, My photos present an imaginary world (inspired by historic arti-facts and environments of Communist Czechoslovakia). The series has been complied through several of the artist’s photographic series.


TP: The images look like paintings, how did you process the editing?
The scenes are a big production . I´m co-operating with a big production team, especially with stage and costume designers, Zuzana Hudakova, Martina Siranova and Laura Storcelova. We ause socilistic designs because they look minimalistic and futuristic at the same time. We call this style FUTURO_RETRO. The lighting plays also a big role: I use only natural light during the day. The post-production doesn’t take very long using Photoshop and everything else is just my personal style and skills.


TP: It seems you like candy colours a lot, why?
Yes, my color palette is my strategy in my photograph. I love pastel colours. They are very clear, minimalistic and simply, but I use stronger colours too.

TP: What do you do during your spare time?
I like to do a sport, cooking, traveling. I like to explore the world: discovering new places and their galleries. Inspiration for me is architecture, painting and design.


TP: What next?
I´m experimenting with other news. I want to go deeper. I would like to show people something new, something they haven´t seen or done before. It´s hard but I´m trying because people should always see new things. And yes, I will continue with the series Swimm, Swimming pool.