Stalked: Anja Humljan, Photographer
22 April 2015
Recently I stumbled across a stunning photographic series by Anja Humljan, titled Urban Yoga. In this series she looks at how the human body can manipulate itself into the most beautiful forms and if you place these forms against the harsh cold background of the city, then you have something truly spectacular.
I caught up with Anja on her work and her latest book, Urban Yoga, which is all about this incredible series.
What do you love about photography and your job?
I am exploring the magic of space that centres on human experience, inspiring others to look at the world around them in a more meaningful way: re-examining how their bodies inhabit urban places, breathing new human-oriented life into the efficient and industrial world of urban architecture and design. The role of an architect is not only to build structures, but also to build bridges between our respected field and the citizens who use our structures on a daily basis. I am doing this with The Urban Yoga. It is not yoga as such, but an architectural experiment, a movement changing the way we experience everyday situations if we focus on our body and senses. It is inviting citizens to smell, touch, taste, see and hear in order to experience, how does their city feel. Thus, it is challenging architects to design architecture that is not only visually and technologically stunning, but is designed with humans in mind. Therefore, the word yoga in the name of the project: Just like in yoga, where your body becomes your special space, every urban environment designed with humans in mind can become a source of positive energy, a place of self-reflection and self-realization. A place that brings you back to the world and towards your own sense of being.
Image: New York - Jaka Vinsek
What was you're inspiration behind your Urban Yoga series.
As a student of architecture in Slovenia, who was intensely involved with yoga and dance, I found it difficult to design space based merely on geometry and function. I felt that focusing on our body and multi-sensory experience could open up new possibilities in architectural design. So, I went to Denmark to study digital design for one semester. Our project, interactive pavilion NoRA, was built at Venice Architecture Biennial. At the age of 23 I was the youngest Slovenian architect having a project exhibited at prestigious event. I began to branch out further, exploring fields that at first glance had no connection with architecture, such as the dynamic relationship between the individual and space through modern dance and ballet. I spent months of study breaks in New York taking master classes with dance companies, such as Alvin Ailey and Complexions and studying yoga with Jivamukti Yoga New York. Moreover, learning sound recording, video and photography in Australia for a year, working as voice actor and radio host, instilled in me a subtle sense for the sonic qualities of our contemporary environment.
As a yoga teacher of thirteen years I based my practice on the notion that our guiding principle is to live in harmony with ourselves as well as with the environment – any environment. However, people are increasingly convinced that an urban environment limits our freedom, causes stress and keeps us constantly alert. Thus, urban landscape should not be regarded as something, which disturbs our harmony, but rather as a vital element that contributes to it. Architecture with all its constructive fields makes up the urban landscape – the city, the inescapable environment of contemporary humans. This is where The Urban Yoga steps in.
I created a laboratory for experimental architecture called Space Potential, The Urban Yoga being one of the projects. Its goal is to ensure that architecture is designed not only to appear visually and technologically stunning, but is designed with humans in mind. Architecture that will continue not only to provide the world with buildings, which satisfy merely the functional demands, but to express fundamental truths of the human condition, including the dreams, imagination, and desires not just of the designers themselves, but also of those who use these structures on a daily basis.
Image: New York - Jaka Vinsek
How do you think photography has developed in the last decade?
It has become more accessible to everyone. Via smartphones and apps, it has become a big part of individual’s every day life, enabling one to document personal life and express one’s immediate feelings. However, I have been never drawn to this zeitgeist, but I am happy for those whose life it has enriched.
Image: Primoz Lukezic
Who are you inspired by?
I am inspired by the gratefulness of being brought up to this world; I am inspired by nature, cities, human relationships, by all the processes and things that we have and experience in our every day life. I am inspired by all the possibilities, opportunities and surprises. As for people I am inspired by all those who have high moral values, who are loyal, kind, authentic, focused and furthermore, who are spicing it all up with humor and positive attitude. Having quite a few people with such virtues in my personal life makes me utmost happy and humble at the same time.
Image: New York - Jaka Vinsek
If you could live in another city where would it be and why?
New York for the next couple of years and then Paris. Due to its high pace and immense diversity New York is a great place to grow within you profession, to evolve as an entrepreneur, artist, designer, architect. Moreover, I like how it seems as if the whole city functions as a living room, where everyone meet and interact. As for Paris: I love it. Compared to New York it is calmer and more sophisticated, but still very diverse and only two hours away from Ljubljana. My charming hometown, family and friends.
The book - a coffee table must!!
Below is the beautiful Anja herself, photograph by Borut Peterlin.
Image Courtesy of Borut Peterlin
What five items can you not live without?
I am rather adaptive and find my ways in all kinds of situations devoid of various items, even computers and phones, which I use on a daily basis. At the end of the day, however, what I cannot imagine to live without is creativity, dreams, desires, hope, friendship and virtue.