Roza Vulf, a candid eye on street photography
Roza Vulf is a Lithuanian born photographer currently based in Rome, Italy. Her work is known to be free from restrictions to a single photographic style, yet she is easily emotionally influenced by the street as it allows her for just a fraction of a second, to connect with someone else’s story.
by Luigi Coluccia
Roza was born in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1960. She has studied Russian language and Literature at Vilnius University, however the bulk of her working experience has been as an entrepreneur, running her own business. She lived for almost a decade in Germany before relocating to Rome, where she reside now.
Her childhood was the part of her life when her visions, principles and attitudes have been strongly built. She has actually kept them through all her life.
Childhood is the part of my life when my visions, principles and attitudes have been strongly built.
Also, her children are very supportive. Both of them are very creative and talented in their spectrum of work.
My children support me a lot and their opinion of my work counts, no matter how harsh it could be.
Her photography is known to be free from any style restriction and does not belong only to a single photographic genre, but is characterized by the strong emphasis placed on the subject taken.
Her photography work is featured in a large number of publications and digital platforms such as LensCulture, The Guardian, My Modern Met, National Geographic Your Shot and Fotopolis. Much of her work has been awarded in numerous international competitions and has been exhibited all over the world. She is also a member of the collective OnEdgeStreet.
LC: Roza, if you should describe yourself in a few keywords, which ones will suit best and why? And if your friends/relatives should, how would they describe you?
RV: I think I prefer to say it myself as making this question to the family or friends would unleash a good, long trial of funny jokes because finally they would have the possibility to say something. In any case I have a feeling they probably could agree with my keywords: determinate/doubtful, sensitive/harsh, supportive/demanding etc I guess this description also makes me pretty honest.
LC: I think so. Let’s switch to photography now. How was the start? Where does your passion come from? Is it something you have learnt from your family, rather than related to your artistic background?
RV: I don’t have any specific artistic background and I am a self-taught photographer. I would say my sensitivity to the Arts and photography routes back to my family. My father was an intellectual and he was guiding me in my discovery of the Art world, literature and photography, when I was still a child. I loved reading and also looking through the Art and photography books together with him, exploring and understanding some paintings or photographs.
Regularly he was documenting our family life in photographs and short videos, which made camera and video camera very habitual tools for me. As I became older it evolved and is constantly developing. I keep my mind open to different types of photographic artistic expressions.
LC: Is there a specific event/moment which triggered in you the passion for photography? When did it happen?
RV: It would be difficult to recognize one specific moment. I have always had a tight connection with photography since I was a teenager. Back then, I had an internship with some local newspapers in Vilnius and I was shooting on film, using cameras like “Smena” and “Zenit.” But life takes its own turn—I got married, had two kids, and had to get a reliable source of income, as well as study.
There simply was no time to study photography professionally, so I was taking pictures of my children, family, and friends and developing them myself. As time passed by, I changed to digital and kept documenting my travels and family life. Eight years ago I moved to Rome and finally obtained the opportunity to dedicate most of my time to photography.
As Dorothea Lange once said, “It is no accident that the photographer becomes a photographer any more than the lion tamer becomes a lion tamer.”
I didn’t become a lion tamer.
Roza’s photography has always been a source of great inspiration for me. I have always loved her extraordinary ability to synthesize and and spot the essential. It is a no frills photography, where you can find all that is needed, nothing more and nothing less. It is something that reminds the concept of subtraction which is recurrent in our minimalistic architectural photography.
However, in Roza’s work I can feel an instinctive search for a very personal relationship with the urban surroundings. There is a reason why her photographs do not need any captions, her relationship with the street is very private and words can often distort the meaning of “candid”. That’s probably what makes Roza one of the most appreciated authors of her kind.
LC: I have been very impressed by several of your works, “Illuminated”, “Human Traces” and “Under: Rome”, among others. Would you like to tell us something about each of them? How have you come up with these ideas? What are they meant to communicate? What have they left in you?
RV: Thank you so much for your appreciation. All three projects are tightly connected to Rome and Italy and came out in a very natural way. They were formulated using distinguish light, colour and emotional expressions. All three are about people and human conditions under different circumstances. Some of the projects are more metaphorical, some less.
“Illuminated” was unavoidable, because the light in Rome, especially in Spring, is very particular. Warm yellow colours of the buildings and deep shades create a fantastic deep contrast, where the light itself stages the frames. They are pretty magical all those surprising moments when facial expressions, gestures or shapes of strangers are suddenly lit up by light for a second in a narrow street. I call it for myself – What light showed me.
“Human Traces” came out from my love for beaches out of season. Their grayish tonality and figures of lonely people makes me feel melancholic and clears my mind. Once I came to the beach just after the storm. There was almost no one, but so many unpredictable different objects laying around in the dark sand. The sea stubbornly brought back something that humans left behind. It was quite striking and meaningful.
I was immediately struck by this work, it looked like she felt the desire to investigate the story behind each of these objects, gathering as much information as possible about them and the people whom those objects have belonged. In fact she could only imagine the feelings related to those objects of different shape and size, realizing that each of them could have its own story to tell.
I almost wanted to investigate them, so many stories those human traces hold. I could imagine happiness or desperation, joy or sadness. A winter boot, a shower hose, a last written good bye, a doll, a book, a bottle and so many colourful pieces of plastic of different shapes and sizes. It went on and on and there was an invisible person behind each object and the question arose, is this really the way we should share our stories and communicate?
“Under: Rome” is another unavoidable project, that I will keep working on whilst I live in Rome. The limited space of the Underground and its special light provides endless cinematic frames filled by vast emotions and expressions, separation and togetherness. It is all about human condition in the big city.
LC: Can you tell us something about your work method and your approach to photography. Is it more a sociological investigation on people living their time, rather than a form of introspective research starting from the outside world and society?
RV: I am not quite sure if I can separate sociological investigation and introspective research in my work. I guess in my approach to photography at some point they are quite blended. However there is no way to escape our own emotional presence while we are in a creative process. Every single photograph I take contains a piece of me. To an extent, my entire body of work is made of my attitude, priorities, interests and the environment I am in. That would make my approach more of introspective research.
I feel really attracted by Roza’s approach to photography. In her photographs I can read her special introspective soul and her presence of mind which can enhance her creativity and her ability to retrieve feelings and fix them in a shot. Her work is a kind of deeply emotional street photography.
LC: What kind of sensation or feeling would you like to trigger in the viewers?
RV: I rely on my work’s ability to provoke a viewer’s mind, which can be both personal or objective. And I hope the viewer can feel my love to the subjects in my shots, as I love humans in general.
LC: Are there some points of reference that helped you in determining your current style? What is your main inspiration when you go out for a shooting?
RV: I think shooting candid is the main reference of my work. Kind of a principle. It has always been an instinctive choice since the very beginning. Capturing real scenes from real life has become second nature to me by now, and the idea of recreating a posed scene seems fake and obsolete in relation to my current work. But then again, I might explore this technique one day.
My inspiration and my protagonist is always the street itself, where the only thing I may find anticipated are the fine details of the surrounding environment I am in. It could be just a reflection, a light, a geometry, some facial expression, wind in one’s hair, a pose framed by colour, in other words – a sentiment. It is essential to walk the streets with your guard down, being aware, and ready for the unexpected, that’s when it happens.
LC: What are your preferred subjects and how do you choose them? Is it more like letting be inspired by what you see, rather than previously studying and researching the places where you can find your inspiration?
RV: In photography, especially in street photography, we see only what we are ready to see, what our mind is mirroring at that particular moment. So I let to be inspired by it. Usually for me it is not really important where to photograph, unless I am working on a precise project. But some places, like Rome’s Underground or Italian beaches of season, cities like London or New York, are exceptional sources for inspiration.
LC: Has your photographic style changed through years and how has it evolved?
RV: I feel always mystified when talk about style. Perhaps I just don’t like the word itself or prefer not to limit myself to that word. They say it is important to have one photographic style but as you know from my body of work I express my vision in some different ways. I think it would be correct to say that I am evolving as a person and it resonates in my work.
LC: What kind of cameras, lenses or equipment do you use in your photography?
RV: Last several years it is Leica M240 with 35mm lens. I am not a big fan of wider angle lenses because I don’t like the distortion they usually introduce to the frame. Before it was Fuji x100s, what 23 mm fixed lens is equivalent to 35 mm. It is usually one camera, one lens. Technical side of photography is a secondary to me. It is just important to feel comfortable with your camera.
LC: In conclusion, we can actually perceive in your work and in your words, you put a lot of passion in what you do. What would you suggest to inexperienced people willing to approach photography? What have you learnt from your experience?
RV: Don’t want to sound clichéd, but to be true to yourself is vital in my opinion. Learn, but remember brilliant words of Nietzsche, “I have just read Schopenhauer, now I have to get rid of him.” Don’t let anyone to get between you and your own vision. Practise, but know that practice won’t make your work perfect. It will just make you feel more comfortable. I personally learn and practise every day but the most important I deeply enjoy what I do. There are plenty of doubts on that path, as well as ups and downs but I consider myself lucky to find the medium as photography. I don’t paint or make sculptures but photography allows me to translate my vision and express myself. As in any type of Arts one should invest a lot of passion and determination to get a satisfying result.
More information on the Author at the following links:
[Editor’s note]: All images included in this article are courtesy of ©Roza Vulf – All Rights reserved.
About Luigi Coluccia
Gigi was born in Salento and lives in Rome. He has attended a degree course in Economics and subsequently has embraced the military career. He alternates his passion for economics and literature, inherited from his grandfather, to that for photography that he has been cultivating for some time, applying himself in different photographic genres, before moving to architecture and minimalistic photography in which he can express his creative vision. His pragmatic personality and his ability to look ahead make him realize that photography together with Social Media could become a powerful mix of aggregation and sharing. Therefore he founded the ArchiMinimal Photography Group which has been able to attract the attention of many Italian and international users around a broader project that aggregates a large active community of photo-amateurs. Involved in the promotion of Photography, he also founded the digital magazine ArteVitae, an editorial project resulting from the success of the social community, for which he writes mainly about photography. In his Digressioni sulla fotografia he meets every week a photographer, entertaining the readers with his accurate and never trivial interviews.