We are happy to introduce you to our Top 10 Interview with a Photographer Series! Meet Photographer #8 Valery Rizzo, a professional stock, assignment and fine art photographer who has a decades long love affair the Holga and everything analogue. Openideas caught up with her despite her busy schedule and fielded in some questions about stock photography and film in general!
First off, please tell us more about yourself.
I am a professional stock, assignment and fine art photographer living in Brooklyn, New York. I love all things Brooklyn and I am presently working on a Book project about Brooklyn, all shot with plastic cameras, namely Holgas and Wocas.
What was your first analogue camera and when did you start taking photography seriously?
Actually my first analogue camera, now that you’ve made we remember, was a Diana, given to me as a gift, when I was 14 by my grandfather. I remember him showing me how you had to tape the entire thing up to prevent light leaks.
I actually got my degree in illustration and had taken photography classes when I was in college. After a career as an art director, illustrator and then textile artist, I became a photographer about 11 years ago. I had developed a repetitive stress injury and could no longer paint or draw and because of that period in my life I discovered my love of photography.
What’s your favorite analogue camera and why?
Well, I have several favorites, but I would have to say I am a bit Holga crazy! My favorite camera though is my Woca! Then my second favorites are my Polaroid cameras: a vintage SX70 and a converted 110A.
We see that you’re a stock photographer. Tell us more about it and your experience with it with regards to film.
Yes, I am a contributing photographer to Getty images, Corbis and Alamy and I also license stock myself to buyers. As far as film and digital goes with regards to stock agencies, I was basically forced to shoot digitally if I wanted to continue contributing work. For 35mm shooting it totally makes sense I think to shoot digitally for stock, it’s a lot faster and it just makes sense. But I also managed to submit lots of film including Holga shots to some of my stock agencies before they went digital.
I do however now and then throw in some Polaroid shots and Holga work which sometimes gets chosen. My favorite sales are actually the ones that I’ve shot with a Polaroid or a Holga camera. And recently more people have been contacting me wanting to license or publish my Holga images.
What is it with film that makes you stick with it despite the digital age?
Well for one thing my Holga shoots film! The second thing is medium format. I can’t really afford to shoot digital medium format at the moment. So I still use besides my Holga cameras, my 3 Mamiya medium format film cameras. I really also feel as though I don’t want to lose that bit of organic element that film offers to my life and to my work. Especially with the Holga work I would never want to lose that ability to achieve the unexpected. Film still offers me a quality and more importantly a feeling which is not achievable with Digital.
If someone off the street asks you, “Why analogue?” (or “What the hell is that thing you’re holding and why can’t I see the picture you just took?”), how do you respond?
I Love the different reactions I get while shooting with the Holga/Woca. Sometimes, say when I’m shooting the mermaid Parade with all the digital photographers, a photographer will look at me and say wow Holga, I have to find mine, but with a sense of yearning or nostalgia in his voice. And sometimes people don’t even notice anything about the camera I’m using and say nothing unusual or sometimes people ask me surprisingly" oh you’re shooting film?" as if I’m a dinosaur but at the same time their expression is one of respect for the film quality. And actually I love most of all the people who look at my camera like what the hell is that thing you’re holding???? I love that the best!!
What inspires you to shoot?
I’m inspired by going and doing something new, or finding out about something interesting that it’s happening. I am inspired by films, locations and meeting interesting people.
If you were to take a portrait of anyone (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
That is really hard question, how could anybody pick just one person? Joan of arc, Fidel Castro, Deborah Harry, Marie Antoinette, Pocahontas, to name a few and my grandmothers from both sides of my family. Why? They are all either interesting, inspirational, rebellious or a classic.
What is your favorite film photography moment?
Just after I have picked up my prints from the lab and the anticipation of seeing what I shot and then seeing the shot (Holga) that came out more amazing than I could have imagined! Its the best high in the world.
Any shooting advice you’d like to share with our analogue readers?
Shoot what you know well and what inspires you and fight the fight for your film!! Don’t listen to the masses be an individual. Viva Film!!