A collage of buildings in France. Anastasia Savinova

Anastasia Savinova’s surreal composite structures piece together the essential fragments of a city.

On a walk through Paris, you might pass a set of window shutters thrown open to show a black wrought-iron balcony and think: “This is it. This is France.”

You might take a photograph.  But one image never quite captures the totality of a place. A city’s genius loci—its distinctive spirit—is ephemeral. You can experience it, but it’s harder to recreate.

In her photographic collage series, also called “Genius Loci,” Sweden-based artist Anastasia Savinova comes close.

Belgium (Anastasia Savinova)

Born in the USSR, Savinova was so inspired on her first trip abroad to the Netherlands that “I wanted to save the feeling of the new place,” she tells CityLab. Instead of compiling her individual photographs into a series, she layered them on top of each other, building “a house which symbolized the whole country.”

At first, the collages were for herself alone. She calls them “jars” in which she keeps the spirit of the places she visits.

They’ve become a lifelong project for her, and one to be shared. “I want my collages to show not only architectural structures in cohesion with the landscape but also to catch something bigger than the sum of elements—a whole integral image of space,” she writes on her website.

Umeå, Sweden (Anastasia Savinova)
Fårö, Sweden (Anastasia Savinova)

To create them, she tells CityLab, “I walk around, go to places popular among locals, look into windows. I try to ‘feel’ the place, to catch it breathe.” She takes photos even if the place doesn’t seem immediately distinctive at first sight. “After a while, some particularities appear.”On her laptop, she assembles the fragments into her architecturally surreal images.

As photographic prints, Savinova’s collages are highly tangible—decorative, even. But the beauty of them, she writes, is that they’re “inseparably linked with a mentality and a way of life.” Looking at them, you’re transported.

Italy (Anastasia Savinova)
Germany (Anastasia Savinova)

Prints, from $36 at http://www.anastasiasavinova.com.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a photo of the First Pasadena State Bank building, designed by Texas modernist architects MacKie and Kamrath. It will be demolished on July 21.
    Design

    The Lonely Death of a South Texas Skyscraper

    The First Pasadena State Bank, a 12-story modernist tower inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, has dominated this small town near Houston since 1962.

  2. The legs of a crash-test dummy.
    Transportation

    A Clue to the Reason for Women’s Pervasive Car-Safety Problem

    Crash-test dummies are typically models of an average man. Women are 73 percent more likely to be injured in a car accident. These things are probably connected.

  3. A photo of anti-gentrification graffiti in Washington, D.C.
    Equity

    The Hidden Winners in Neighborhood Gentrification

    A new study claims the effects of neighborhood change on original lower-income residents are largely positive, despite fears of spiking rents and displacement.

  4. A NASA rendering of a moon base with lunar rover from 1986.
    Life

    We Were Promised Moon Cities

    It’s been 50 years since Apollo 11 put humans on the surface of the moon. Why didn’t we stay and build a more permanent lunar base? Lots of reasons.

  5. SEPTA trains in Philadelphia
    Transportation

    Startups Are Abandoning Suburbs for Cities With Good Transit

    A new study finds that new business startups are choosing cities with good public transportation options over the traditional suburban locations.

×