Photography is not just a way to document reality, but also a powerful narrative tool to escape in an intriguing game of mysteries: figurative art at its best, it is capable of building new situations and fascinating meanings.
Michela Riva, a photographer who is fascinated by visual and figurative art, used the Daguerreotype Achromat Art Lens to create his interpretation of a winter fairy tale.
Photographer: Michela Riva
Model: Martina @ Be Nice
Styling: Alessia Alessio-Vernì
Make up: Cecilia Carbonelli
Assistant: Daniele Riva
Clothes: BOOGALOO Vintage and more
Location: Val Rosandra, Trieste
Fotocamera: Nikon d7000
Hello Michela! Tell us something about yourself and about your passion for photography.
Hello! I am Michela, I am 33 years old and I am a photographer from Trieste, Italy. My paternal grandfather, passionate painter and photographer, passed down to me the love for art, guiding my first steps into drawing since childhood, for then donating me the first analogue compact when I was 8 years old. Despite being really good at drawing, with photography, I was a real disaster! I burned films in unfocused pictures, overexposed or almost black, without a specific subject and apparently super random. Thinking I was totally untalented, I put away the artistic photography for many years, taking my camera out only for family trips or special moments.
When I was 20 years old, inspired by the beautiful images seen on DeviantArt (among many artists I follow I would mention Lara Jade's early work) I have decided to give a second chance to photography and I started to experiment landscapes and self-portraits (not having available any other subjects). Despite my first digital compact giving me some satisfaction, most of the time I felt frustrated because I could not obtain the desired results. In 2011 I had my first reflex, everything changed. I have started shooting nonstop, everywhere I went, spending my nights on Photoshop to post-edit, sharing my pictures on social networks and listening to feedback from experts. After about one year and a half, I was commissioned for my first jobs and since then my biggest passion has also become a job :)
How would you define your style and how has it evolved over time?
Passionate about painting ever since. I began to capture natural and urban landscapes during my trips, then transforming the shots in images more similar to surreal paintings than photos through a complex post-production work. The intention has never been to represent reality as it is, but to illustrate it through my eyes and emotions. I gradually switched to portraits, first as spontaneous ones in street photography, and then a more planned style in fine-art portraiture and fashion photography (which has become my main genre now).
How do you keep your creative spirit active? From where do you take inspiration?
I am a big dreamer and I often travel with my mind, forgetting about reality. It can happen everywhere: during a train trip, while listening to my favorite music, walking in the city or nature, in front of a painting, during the showing of a movie or in the middle of reading a book. I start dreaming with open eyes and imagining a photographic story with its own protagonist, the setting, the atmosphere and all the details. All my photographic projects are born after visions; unfortunately, I cannot realize everything that passes through my mind, but when it happens it's like I have transformed a dream of mine in reality and it is beautiful!
Are there any photographers close to your heart?
My absolute favorite photographers are Annie Leibovitz, Tim Walker, Peter Lindberg and Paolo Roversi. These legends do not need presentations. I deeply appreciate them, their work is worldly recognizable: every time I see them, I am moved! Among rising photographers – even already those who are professionally accomplished – Emily Soto and Lara Jade are particularly close to my heart; I follow them since their beginnings and they are a source of inspiration and encouragement for me.
For people who have just recently started experimenting with photography, which advice would you give regarding telling a story and moving others through a shot?
On a technical level, the suggestion I can give is to let it go, try a thousand times, make mistakes and learn from them with a healthy self-judgement, in order to constantly improve. On an emotional level, I believe the most important part is to transmit what you have inside and want to tell, not only what you saw in someone’s picture because the copy will unlikely be touching, like the original. And also, by copying, what does it really tell about ourselves?
To tell an authentic story, which is able to touch people, I think it is necessary to look into ourselves first so we can project a part of our internal world to the outside. It does not matter how many likes you receive, shoot for yourselves to express what of most unique you have inside. Social networks might disappear tomorrow, so do not let them destroy your passion and your creative fire! Always go ahead and follow your heart.
Tell us about this series shoot with the Daguerreotype Achromat Art Lens.
I had never tried this lens before, so I checked online for some photo samples to have an idea of what I could potentially do. Something that hit me immediately, looking at the tests, were the wonderful light effects given by the aperture plates. I thought about how I could use it and I decided for candles. I built the mood board, gathering all ideas and inspirations until the story came alive in my head. I contacted Alessia, a collaborator of mine since many years and owner of a delightful vintage clothing store in Trieste; she agreed to the project, taking care of the styling and creating wonderful outfits that you can see in the pictures. The makeup is by Cecilia, an extraordinary makeup artist and old friend, who collaborates with me since the beginning. The beautiful model Martina perfectly identified with the protagonist of my winter tale with extreme elegance and delicacy.
I love working in a team, in particular with my most trusted collaborators, because we are all in harmony and we understand each other right away. The thing I like the most is to see how each of us contributes with talent and creativity to the project, which then is not just “mine” anymore but becomes ours and it is beautiful.
My brother Daniele was the assistant on set (carrying super heavy bags along the path and risking to slip in the river a couple of times :P), for the backstage video, and for its montage. It was nice to work together for the first time for the shooting of a video (usually I take photos while he films), even though I admit I am just starting with video making and I still have a long way to go. But I am really passionate about it, almost as much as photography.
What did you think when you saw this optic for the first time? Did its peculiar design have some effects on the realization of the photo shoot?
When I saw the lens I was truly impressed by its aesthetic. It is simply beautiful. I have never seen such a gorgeous lens, I must admit! I am a vintage lover and, as you might have seen on my website, I did several shootings inspired to past ages, so with this lens I felt even more inspired in making a tale in an old-fashioned way. More than the design, the dreamy effect of a vintage photo and the wonderful painted effect given by the aperture plates influenced my shots.
With which aperture did you shoot? Did you use the special format aperture plates?
I mainly used: the standard plate f/2.9, the Lumière f/4.5, and the Aquarelle f/6.3. I did not go towards more closed apertures because of the lack of light (we were in the woods in the darkest period of the year). I tried to shoot also without plates to experiment a soft and dreamlike effect. I changed plates frequently according to the light, to the background, and to the effect I wanted in that moment. I had never shot with a lens like this one and I can tell I had so much fun. It was truly exciting.
This lens is part of the Art Lenses family of Lomography. According to you what are the benefits of using an art lens and for which style do you think is it suitable?
I recommend this lens especially to those who love creating dreamy and artistic pictures, to those who want to experiment something completely different from what you can obtain with traditional lens and realizing images even without post-production.
In this shoot, I only used basic settings for intensifying the colors and contrast but I did not distort the original image nor added special effects. I personalized them just as much to make them mine, branding them with my style, trying to stay loyal to the magic of the raw shot captured with the Daguerreotype. An ideal lens especially for portraits, I wanted to test it also for whole figures and I was pleasantly surprised, particularly with the Lumière and Aquarelle aperture plates. They emit an evocative painted effect to photos.
Thanks to Michela and to all her team for creating and sharing with us this wonderful shooting series.