Exploring ‘naked yoga’. Huh?
A series of coincidences and a lady from Reykjavík took Tony Prower from southern England to Iceland, where he picked up a camera—an antique Olympus—and spent many of the nighttime hours of his first winter in Iceland watching and capturing the Northern Lights through its lens.
Tony was captivated by Iceland, its landscape and photography. After a few years of juggling working at a hostel for people with severe disabilities with his newfound passion, he moved on to set up a thriving business, taking travellers armed with some serious digital hardware around the country to get fantastic pictures in the unlikeliest locations, as well as the obvious ones.
How exactly did this happen?
‘The Icelandic Naked Yoga Project’ grew from this blend of photography, landscape and an interest in yoga, kicking off when he set his camera up on a tripod on the eerie shore of Jökulsárlón to capture the ice and early morning sunshine, but decided that something more was needed for the composition. So he stripped off, struck a tree pose standing in the icy water and waited for the self-timer to do its thing. The germ of an idea grew as he towelled the feeling back into his toes.
‘The Icelandic Naked Yoga Project’ is a simple enough idea. A book of pictures of naked people in yoga poses with the Icelandic landscape as a backdrop. The pictures are taken by Tony and by Hanna Birna Geirmundsdóttir, who collaborated on the two-year project.
What is striking, and what really makes the Icelandic Naked Yoga Project a breath of fresh air, is that this isn’t about aloof stick-thin young women with perfect teeth and blow-dried hair showing off their airbrushed booty al fresco.
Although it was initially difficult to find sitters who were not suspicious of the whole concept, once a few people had bravely stripped off and stood in the snow, a stream of willing models began to form as the word was passed around.
Stretchmarks, spare tyres, todgers… YUM!
The models who sat for Tony and Hanna Birna’s cameras aren’t walking cartoons, but real people—and it’s a pleasure to see. There are women and men, young and old, big and small. There are stretchmarks, spare tyres, todgers, a few flabby bellies and skinny legs, as well as gooseflesh. The goose bumps are an integral part of the scenery as the photos in the book aren’t all cosy summer pictures; some were taken with snow on the ground and enough of it to give you a chill just looking at the wind whipping up the Kleifarvatn wave tops.
It shows a reality that isn’t generally seen, both Iceland itself and the band of commendably courageous models. It’s not easy to strip off and stand still when the ground is cold enough to make your feet sting. It’s also not easy to find a location for a shoot that’s free enough of extremely curious passers-by, especially with only a few scarce hours of daylight in the depths of winter.
Stones and skin
The reasons for people to strip down to their birthday suits and sit for Tony and Hanna Birna’s cameras are as various as the people involved. One of the women sitters is an immigrant from a country where nudity of any kind would never be possible and wanted to celebrate this new freedom. Another wanted a reminder of her looks to take with her as she grows older. One of the young men involved was there for the simplest reason of all: his girlfriend told him to.
The other star of the book is the landscape and alongside the waterfalls that everyone snaps a photo of, there are a good few of the magnificent locations that Tony’s work as a photography guide has taken him to. The stones are just as much the star of the book as the skin.
It’s a great book, and a fine effort that doesn’t take itself over-seriously. But I can already hear the artistic establishment’s sneers, and the book does have its shortcomings. It has some rough edges that are part of the whole and which add to rather than detract from the honesty of ‘The Icelandic Naked Yoga Project’.
‘The Icelandic Naked Yoga Project’ is published by Skrudda and is available at Mál og Menning and Eymundsson.