Anna Jast is a photographer who travels all around New York and uses her photography skills to capture the moments and all of the magic that captivates the world. An architect by education, and a photographer at heart, she is a lover of art and an advocate for justice.
Spending 20 years of her life in the beautiful city of Vienna, Anna journeyed through several places around the world, and it was in Marseille, in the south of France, where she felt her inspirations come to life. Rich in both history and culture, Anna revealed, “Marseille is the oldest city in France and was founded by Ancient Greeks. It has plenty of history and a mixture of cultures, similar to New York. And the magical light in that region was an inspiration to Cezanne and Van Gogh. I started to explore black & white photography there and spent hours in the darkroom developing my pictures. This is where my passion for photography started and it has been an amazing journey since then!”
As a New Yorker and an avid globetrotter, Anna felt constrained by the effects of the pandemic, saying, “Lockdown started in March 2020, and I was by myself. Life stopped, no social life, no events, no friends, everybody was scared. We didn’t know what was going on. In the first days of the pandemic, I thought to myself, ‘I’ll get depressed, this is crazy, I cannot meet anyone’, I’m a social person. It was challenging. So I started to brainstorm,” perusing through her phone, she scrolled through Instagram and read a post that said, ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity’, an attributed quote by John Archibald Wheeler.
This quote would be the spark, lighting the torch of her fated pursuit in photographing, not only the turmoil and effects of the pandemic, but also, advocating the all of injustices that the world is going through today. “It’s such a powerful sentence, such a powerful quote, so I saw that and I said, ‘Wow, this is so true’, and then, I thought, ‘we have time, we have time’, this is the first time in our lives to do something, because we cannot work, we cannot meet, we cannot socialize, but suddenly, we are all stuck at home,” said Anna. Thinking about what the pandemic meant to her, Anna began to think about the message of her life in lockdown.
Anna stated, “I started documenting the empty city during lockdown on my bike and I found myself alone in Times Square, on Fifth Avenue and Brooklyn Bridge. The most surreal experience I had with the Charging Bull. Instead of tons of tourists waiting around to take pictures with the bull, and plenty of buses driving them, I was there by myself and heard birds singing! That was the first time that I heard birds singing in the streets of New York. I stayed there for a good half an hour and enjoyed the silence. It was magical and I knew that it would never happen again. I was the witness of those turbulent times and I was showing history in my pictures.”
Throughout the time she spent soul-searching, Anna began to contemplate the meaning of S.O.S, which was a distress call that meant, ‘Save Our Soul’, and reintegrated this connotation, laying it into the foundations of her work. She created a visual diary titled ‘Save Our Spirit’ to qualm the struggles that New Yorkers faced during quarantine. Throughout this timeline, the Black Lives Matters movement began to gain traction in support, combatting the social and racial injustices that have happened in the past to the African American community. The pandemic was initially the heart of her project, and along the way, Black Lives Matters became its soul.
Anna exclaimed, “Coming from Europe, I was never exposed to problems within the black community, I was new to that. But I stand for equality and freedom of speech and the same rights for everyone. Regardless of gender or culture or skin color, which I think is so crazy that we still have to talk about this in the 21st century, it was my reason for joining. We are all the same. It still bothers me to see people being discriminated against today.”
Her daily activities as a cyclist also contributed to her project, she explained, “Being a daily cyclist, I was able to ride in the protests and take pictures and videos of them. One of my pictures has been selected by the Museum of the City of New York for their Protest City exhibition. That was a dream become true for me as I always wanted to show my photography there,” she continued to say that, “New York City is a magical place, and it changes constantly. I see and capture those magic moments on my bike trips around the city and I feel like being a visual storyteller. Photography became a part of me, and then I became a part of New York City.”
Anna said, “Being an architect, I am a visual person and attracted to cityscapes. NYC has a unique mixture of old and new architecture which makes it so special. I love the contrasts and the light effects created in the narrow canyons of Manhattan,” expressed by the architect in her, she continued “There are surreal light situations created from reflections in buildings and sometimes there might be several light sources visible in one picture. It might appear as added flash light but it happens through reflections in glass. I love to capture those magical moments.”
Participating in seven exhibitions in the city, her dream of becoming a professional photographer came to be, keeping her busy and creative during the difficult time of the pandemic:
- 100 Small Works of Hope Group Exhibition – New York, April 2022
- Stand with Ukraine Group Exhibition – New York, April 2022
- SHE IS…2022 Group Exhibition – New York, March 2022
- International Women’s Day Group Exhibition – New York, March 2022
- Save Our Spirit – Artexpo New York, October 2021
- Protest City – The Museum of the City of New York, January – May 2021
- Women Street Photographers Group Exhibition – New York, December 2020
The ‘Save Our Spirit’ photography book, which is comprised on 100 pages, is expected to be released in August through Amazon.