Mária Švarbová Harmonises Individuality and Community in a California Desert

Each time we sit down with Mária Švarbová, she seems to surprise us with something new. From our first discussion on her series A L O N E all the way to her exploration of individuality and unease in Swimming Pools, Mária’s work has been ever-changing and dynamic.


Mária’s deep-diving into complicated and often uncomfortable themes continues with Lost in the Valley. These images depict her vibrantly pastel-clad models juxtaposed against the harsh sands of the desert.

The figures are often entirely alone, or otherwise surrounded by identical copies of themselves which further Mária’s explorations of individuality and autonomy.


We caught a moment with the busy artist to talk about her latest project.

THE PLUS: How do you think you’ve changed as an artist since your earlier projects, like A L O N E? 
Mária Švarbová:
I think I am artist who is more freedom and more confident.

TP: Lost in the Valley takes many familiar elements of your work, such as the stark pastels, and places them in a totally new environment, the desert. How do you choose these locations? 
Lost in the Valley is about the harmonisation between people and space with each other. Human can exist as an individual or become part of something bigger.

First time I have taken the nature like a place for my photo project. Definitely, I have been fascinated by nature in California! But I prefer much more a desert like a green grass or trees for example.


TP: As I mentioned above, certain colour tones are common in your work – why is that? 
You can see vibrant colours without using black. I use black colour just for some details for example shoes. I prefer pastel colors, or some brighter colors. I always wanted to be an artist or painter but I am photographer. So I am painting in my camera.

TP: Do you think the figures in these photographs show any emotions? Why or why not? 
People in the series are lost in the valley but are not frustrated from this situation. They are now thinking about their lives and their authenticity or just they are playing a few games with their shadows.

The play of light and shadows, which vary in each capture offer both a fairly dynamic view of me and a moment of meditation and inner search. Human have freedom, time for yourself – which is so important for this time in this world.


TP: What makes a photoshoot special for you? 
I am happy when I can take a pictures and my ideas with medium like is photography. When I am taking a picture I can feel a flow and freedom, that is really important for me like for an artist.

TP: Tell us a bit about your take on colour as an element in your work. 
I believe my colour style is my domain. When I was young, I wanted to be a painter – that is why I like to express myself through the pictures. I love pastel colours, that’s why I use them for my minimalistic work. Scenes with these types of colours have to be prepared before the actual shooting happens.


TP: What challenges you most as an artist? 
For example something new, new locations. My main inspirations are coming by architecture or interesting places. I love lines and natural light which I often use in my photography. And most challenge is a stagnation in art as well. I don’t like a stereotype or stagnation. So I have to work hard.

TP: Lost in the Valley seems to interact with your series Swimming Pools, as the red swimsuit-wearing models appear in the desert. Why? 
Very good question. It is like a bridge between Swimming pool series and the new series Lost in the Valley. But more photographs are with models who are clothing.


TP: How have your inspirations changed over time? 
I did discover a beauty by architecture. I still love symmetry and geometry so much. The symmetry creates my compositions which are a one of main factors which distinguishes my artwork. I try to harmonize a human and place with each other. These two elements are a one.

TP: What are your plans for the future?
And of course start with more new projects. Generally, I don’t like stagnation, I like people to work on themselves, getting better. I would like to show people something new, something what they didn´t see before. It´s hard but I´m trying.