Eliška Sky Kyselková: sport as a fashion shown full of playfullness and contrasts

Eliška Sky Kyselková: sport as a fashion shown full of playfullness and contrasts

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Eliška Kyselková, known also as Eliška Sky is one of the most talented fashion photographers of her generation. In the series Team Spirit she touched on the domain of sport and showed it in the light of unexpected contrasts with precisely dosed irony and humor. 

Eliška Sky Kyselková, Team Spirit, 2017. Source: yatzer.com

The series, abundant in signal colors, captures the bodies of athletes in bizarre poses and outfits, mostly made of elastic Lycra, which often cover their faces, too. The author plays with contrasts typical for recreational and top-level sports and explores the boundaries of sports uniformity characterized by uniforms designed for each sport discipline. Team Spirit is a funny visual dialogue between individuality and anonymity. 

A tangle of players wrestle in tight outfits only a shade lighter than the court in the backdrop. Their efforts are aggravated by someone outside the shot pulling their elastic stocking in different directions. Or is it just a strange cooperation when collecting the balls? What makes Eliška Kyselková's photographs attractive is, among other factors, that she leaves the viewers a space for their own interpretation and a number of her motifs can be seen in a number of different ways. 

In another picture, this time in Mondrian's primary colors, a group of athletes is portrayed covered (or tied up) by an opaque fabric as well. The ping-pong balls have been replaced by colorful paddles here – but who's playing against whom?

Eliška Sky Kyselková, Team Spirit, 2017. Source: yatzer.com

Collaboration versus competition, that is the leitmotif of the entire series. It's hard to tell whether the group scenes show a defensive formation of teammates facing an attack together, or a vain attempt to break free from a peculiar team where everyone is tied and woven together – such one cannot escape from. 

The athletes are trapped in a net, both figuratively and literally. In the photo capturing two tennis players, this motif echoes on the court, in the clothes of the players and the stringing of the rackets. Do we see a fierce duel or a relieved hug at the end of an exhausting match? 

Eliška Sky Kyselková, Team Spirit, 2017. Source: yatzer.com

The overall tone of the photographs is provocatively vague and it's only up to the viewers to decide which approach they adopt. They're balancing on the edge. They're searching for balance just like the two figures dressed head to toe (including individual fingers) in tight red leotards. They seesaw from side to side in the center of a circle made of badminton shuttlecocks, and the weight of both rests on the arms of the bottom one. How important is trust and the ability to rely on your teammates in sports? 

Eliška Sky Kyselková, Team Spirit, 2017. Source: yatzer.com

The image of a figure lying motionless in the middle of a court with a line crossing its forehead evokes the theme of composure and the associated mental balance. Or the figure(s) in a yellow leotard resembling the Hindu god Shiva – does it symbolize a quiet relaxed meditation or maximum concentration before performance? 

Eliška Sky Kyselková, Team Spirit, 2017. Source: yatzer.com

Eliška Sky Kyselková, Team Spirit, 2017. Source: yatzer.com

The detailed shot of legs and ping-pong balls shaping up from underneath colorful tights complements the playfully ironic tone of the whole series, which is a witness to Kyselková's main focus as a professional photographer and art director - fashion. Her sense of colour, dramatic composition and emphasis on materials are apparent in each of her photos. No wonder the author collaborated with a number of well-known brands and emerging fashion designers: PUMA, Preciosa crystals, Räthelwolf, Maeva London, Rose Danford-Philips, Ahmed Serour, Kateřina Reich, Estelle London or Kristina Ferenchuk. Eliška Kyselková, however, also recognizes the dark side of the fashion industry. She’s aware that it’s one of the biggest polluters of the environment, and within her projects she deals with issues of the relationship between people and nature. 

Eliška Sky Kyselková, Team Spirit, 2017. Source: yatzer.com

Her series Globe depicts a model in a giant plastic ball, which symbolizes the separation of humans from nature. She addresses the ecology topic also in her video called A Beginner's Guide to Eco Warriors. She is daring the viewers to limit their consumption to help stop global warming. 

In an interview for Redbull.cz she said she started the change with herself. She became vegan, limited shopping in fast fashion chains, she prefers zero waste and reusable products. She shops at markets and saves energy as well; she rather takes the stairs than the elevator and she dresses warm instead of unnecessarily turning up the heat at home. 

The sustainability principles have already begun to permeate the sport segment of the fashion industry. Eliška Kyselková believes that fashion designers like Stella McCartney can inspire sport celebrities as well as those who sport for pleasure to think and act more environmentally friendly. Actually, global brands such as Puma and Adidas have already set off down this path. Perhaps Eliška's next sports series will be full of desings made of innovative eco-friendly materials. 

Eliška Sky Kyselková is a Czech photographer and art director living in London, where she teaches at the London Institute of Photography. Her main domain is fashion photography addressing current topics such as slow fashion, environment protection or body positivity. Her work is characterized by vivid colors and rich composition with almost surreal nature. She won the 2018 Portrait of Britain Award and she was a Hasselblad Masters finalist. She shoots for Vogue, Hunger, Número, Vision China, Pylot, i-D and Dazed & Confused. 

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Published 14.11.2022

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