All photos by Valentin Rizvan. Used with permission.
Shapes, patterns, symmetry, repetition — all of these are elements and qualities that we often see in all kinds of projects across photography genres. But wedding and event photographer Valentin Rizvan must have thought of combining all of these to breathe life into creatures, scenes, and structures of his imagination. The result is an ongoing body of work aptly called Other Worlds, which began during his university years and continues to the present as part of his film photography journey.
Yes, this project is shot solely on film, with mirroring the only major editing done in each photo. The idea behind the stunning symmetry in Other Worlds, however, will most likely surprise and intrigue you.
“It is based on the Rorschach Inkblot Test in which the subject’s perception is recorded and then psychologically analysed,” Rizvan said of his work. “I am fascinated how many different things people can read in those inkblots just because they’re mirrored and symmetrical.”
Rizvan talks to us about this project in great detail in the interview below, so go ahead and read on to satisfy your curiosity.
Phoblographer: Hello Valentin! Can you tell us something about yourself and what you do?
Valentin Rizvan: Hi there. I’m a professional wedding and event photographer with more than 10 years experience. I am formally trained in photography and video art, having been awarded a Bachelor of Arts diploma in 2010.
Phoblographer: How did you get into photography and discover the kind of imagery that you make now?
Rizvan: I got into digital photography a long time ago, just before I started studying for my degree. I also dabbled a bit with film photography during my University years, but only recently I started shooting film on a regular basis. I mean about 4 years ago (if you can call this recently).
It came in response to my desire to replicate film colors when shooting digital until one day when I decided to shoot film. Since then I shot film exclusively for my personal projects and digital for work. This way I drew a line between work and fun and I kept alive my interest in photography.
Phoblographer: We’re very curious about your Other Worlds project. Can you tell us about how this project came to be? What is the main objective?
Rizvan: The Other Worlds project is in fact something that I did for one of my assignments at the University. It was just a sketch at the time with a small set of photos, but I always thought it had more potential.
So naturally, when I started shooting film I needed a long-term personal project to keep my work focused. I tried to come up with an interesting and fresh idea. However, I have been drawn back to the Other Worlds series.
It is based on the Rorschach Inkblot Test in which the subject’s perception is recorded and then psychologically analysed. I am fascinated how many different things people can read in those inkblots just because they’re mirrored and symmetrical.
Our brains are wired in such a way that they’re always looking for associations when presented with symmetrical images. We associate a variety of psychological qualities with this type of symmetry. The image may feel peaceful, calm, stable, harmonious…etc. With such a small change in perspective we get such a big change in perception and I find this very interesting.
Phoblographer: Can you share with us your creative process for Other Worlds? How do choose the subjects and make sure they fit your vision for the project?
Rizvan: I always have in mind the final image, so when I shoot I’m always thinking that what I see in my viewfinder is only part of the final image. Sometimes I just use my phone to see how it looks mirrored before I shoot it on film.
My images tend to be in 2 categories, objects or spaces. Some of them have a central subject with a 3D quality to it like a tangible object, others look like a space that you get drawn into.
I am constantly thinking what to shoot next so I started looking at things differently and being able to spot possible subjects for my project. Color, shape, light, shadows, all these play a big part in my images so I always look for them when I choose what to photograph.
I love to shoot industrial parks, car parks, shopping malls, warehouses and modern or brutalist architecture. I draw my inspiration from minimalism and futurism.
Phoblographer: Please tell us about your gear of choice for your projects, especially for Other Worlds. How do you think it allows you to achieve your creative vision?
Rizvan: I use a Pentax 645 medium format camera with 2 lenses (55mm f2.8 and 105mm f2.4) and a 35mm camera Canon 300V + 50mm f1.8 lens. I keep the small one in the car so it’s always with me and it gets a lot of use. I like to shoot a variety of films but I prefer Kodak Ektar and Fuji 400H for color, and Kodak Tri-X for black and white. I develop my own black and white films at home and color ones at a local lab. I do my own scanning for both black and white and color and it’s probably the part I like the most.
I think shooting film for this project puts me in a different mental state and that’s quite important. It makes me shoot with intent, be more focused and pay more attention to what I’m doing.
Phoblographer: We’re also particularly intrigued about your use of food in some of your shots for the project. Can you tell us more about that? Do you plan to create more of that kind of imagery in the future?
Rizvan: My project is called Other Worlds so besides spaces and objects it needs some organisms as well.
These images are constructed from different types of meat and shot with studio lights like some product shots. I will definitely create more organic compositions; I am currently experimenting with some different ways to present them, because I like more depth to my images.
Phoblographer: We’ve read that you shoot film and do mirroring in-software for this project. How do your fellow film photographers react to this, especially when they find out about the manipulation involved?
Rizvan: Well, this is a very controversial subject. I think many dismiss my work because they will assume it’s been heavily manipulated. In fact, mirroring is the only editing I do (except image corrections and dust removal etc). Everything else you see in my images like reflections, shadows etc it’s all real, I never combine images, it’s only the original image flipped.
Many love film for its imperfection but I try to make it as perfect as possible so it’s totally different from what you would expect. Also, by mirroring the images I increase the resolution a lot, especially for medium format. Like this, all the grain and other imperfections disappear and the final images look a bit like they are shot with a digital medium format camera.
Phoblographer: You seem to put a very big emphasis on color accented by lighting to make your subjects pop and have the image look sort of 3D. How did you want the viewer to feel when looking at these images?
Rizvan: I would like the viewers to feel exactly like you described my images. To see some 3D objects in a tangible space. Then, upon closer inspection, you will see the original image and the magic will be lost. Your brain will readjust.
Phoblographer: What’s the most challenging aspect of this project? How do you work around it?
Rizvan: I think the most challenging part is to isolate what I’m trying to photograph. I hate when I find a nice building but this has big banners on it, or a nice location with all kinds of trees and other distractions. Not much I can do about it, so I will look for something else. That’s why I said I’m always on the lookout for what to shoot next.
Phoblographer: Which aspect of your style do you feel makes your work truly your own? How do you make sure it shows in your projects?
Rizvan: As an artist I’m never fully confident in my work so I can’t say that I have a personal style. But I always try to simplify my compositions and the fact that I shoot film helps me to have a consistent color palette.
Phoblographer: Lastly, what would you advise those who want to take on more experimental photography projects?
Rizvan: I would say if you love doing it nothing else matters. Don’t be put off by the critics because people will always be against change. Just put in the hours and try to be better than you were the day before. As they say, it’s 90% work and 10% talent.