Toronto photographer Malina Kaija’s exhibit, Morphosis: Evolution of the Athlete, spotlights seven Canadian Pan Am team members. The exhibition will be open at the Akasha Art Projects gallery, located at 511 Church St, Toronto, until August 29th. Kaija’s series of black and white photographs capture the intensity of body and mind that defines elite athletes.

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Canadian Running: What was the inspiration for this exhibit?

Malina Kaija: The work is inspired loosely by the evolution of humankind. The title, Morphosis: Evolution of the Athlete, for me is exactly what’s happening in the images, it’s a showcasing of the adaptation of muscles to a specific sport. Each sport is unique in the way that it alters the body.

CR: How did this project come about?

MK: The owners at Akasha offered me the exhibition. They knew that I am connected to the fitness world and that most of my photography is of athletes. I was on board right away, I thought that it would be a great way to showcase Canadian athletes.

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What draws you to athletes?

MK: I’ve done competitive sports since childhood, track, cycling and I do yoga. I feel as though I understand how bodies move. Athletes are fantastic to work with because you show them what you want them to do and they do it, there’s so much control over their own bodies. I think a history in athletics makes them ideal models because they respond well to coaching and direction. When you’re photographing an athlete, their body isn’t just an aesthetic object, it’s an instrument of performance, which I think really enhances the image.

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Olympic hurdler Sarah Wells with her image

How did you select who to photograph?

MK: I knew I wanted to showcase athletes that didn’t necessarily have a ton of funding behind them, which is why you won’t find many athletes from the “hero sports,” so to speak, in the exhibit. All the money from the exhibit is going towards the athletes themselves, so I really wanted it to go towards athletes that needed it to achieve their sporting goals. Other than that, there was also the fact that they needed to be comfortable with being photographed in the nude, which isn’t necessarily for everyone.

What were the athletes’ reactions to the photos?

MK: They were so wonderful to work with and so excited when they saw the images. I can’t even count how many that we’re like, “I can’t believe that’s me!” It has been an incredible and humbling experience for me to work with these athletes because they’re really the role models of the next generations. They work their tooshies off for very little fame or fortune with an ethic that is inspiring.


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