Yoga, al fresco, with gooseflesh

31 July 2011

Call it log-rolling of you like. Reviewing a friend’s work without declaring an interest isn’t the done thing. So, I can tell the world that I’ve known Tony Prower since he was a one-legged orphan living in a shoebox in Brockhurst Road. Since then, the missing leg has grown back, but he hasn’t let that hold him back for a moment.
A series of coincidences swept Tony from Gosport to Reykjavík and the charms of the lovely Jóga, where he also picked up a camera – an antique Olympus – and started spending hours watching and capturing the northern lights through its lens.

Tony gazing at distant mountains in Viðidalur


Tony was captivated by Iceland, its landscape and photography. These days he runs a successful 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.
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 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 came 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 INYP a breath of fresh air, is that this isn’t about aloof stick-thin young women with perfect teeth and blowdried hair showing off their airbrushed booty al fresco.


That spur-of-the-moment self-portrait that started the Naked Yoga Project off


The models who sat for Tony’s and Hanna Birna’s cameras aren’t cartoons but real people – and it’s a joy to see. There are women and men, young and old, big and small. There are stretchmarks, todgers, a few flabby bellies and skinny legs, as well as gooseflesh. The goose bumps are 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 Kleivarvatn wave tops.
It shows a reality that isn’t generally seen, both Iceland itself and the motley crew 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 that’s free enough of extremely curious passers-by for a shoot, especially with only a few hours of daylight in the depths of winter.




In a good bookshop near you, the Icelandic Naked Yoga Project


The reasons for people to strip down to their birthday suits and sit for Tony’s 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 as much the star as the skin.
It’s a great book, and a fine effort, 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.
I hope it sells by the ton, and hopefully there’ll be a sequel.

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