Literary Orphans

Interview with Michela Riva

1. Can you put into words the way you have evolved over time as a photographer?
My grandfather transferred his passion for photography to me when I was a child, he gave me my first analog camera when I was 8. I began taking photos for fun, capturing memories, sharing them with family and friends.

When I was 20 I started to shoot photos not only to capture memories but also to express myself, to try and immortalize the beauty around me, especially during my travels.
Since my first digital compact camera gave me little satisfaction, gradually I lost interest in photography for many years, I was frustrated because with these cameras I didn’t achieve my desired results.

When I finally had my first SLR in hand, my whole world changed. I rediscovered a pure and passionate love for photography.


2. What other artists and art forms have influenced you and your work?
I always try to have my own style but I often watch other people’s work to understand and learn, I think this is very important in order to improve myself. I studied Art History for many years so I think painting has influenced a lot my photography. In particular I love the impressionists.
My favorite photographer is Annie Leibovitz, she’s brilliant and unique, I admire her works and I think she’s a complete and versatile photographer; during her long career she worked in the most varied fields you can imagine. Other contemporary photographers I admire: Tim Walker, Steven Meisel and Steve McCurry. Tim Burton is one of my favorite visual artists, I love his imagination. He’s just magic.


3. Can you describe your process and how you design your shots, execute the shoot, and also a little bit about your choices in photoshop, etc.
I’m a dreamer and my photography comes from my dreams. When an idea or a story comes to my mind then I talk with my team and try to transform this ‘vision’ into a photograph.
For urban or street photos the situation is really different because I take these kind of pictures during my travels, without a project in my mind, so it’s all about instinct and intuition.
The post-processing step is really important for me because through Photoshop I transform my raw photograph into the final idea, as faithfully as possible to the original vision I had in mind.


4. Is storytelling important in your photography?
Yes, it’s essential. When I was a child I wanted to be a writer because I always had many stories in my mind and I wanted to tell them to the world. Well, now I know that I was not destined to do it with a pen but with a camera.


5. What are some of your favorite books, poems, authors?
My mother is a librarian so I love books and stories. My favorite genres are fantasy and Gothic horror. One of my favorite writers is Anne Rice, I read all her novels. Some of my favorite books are: 1984 by Orwell, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde. Regarding poetry, I love Pablo Neruda and Shakespeare.


6. What is one thing about photography/art you have learned that you wish you could travel back in time to tell yourself- or tell someone else just starting photography?
I’m happy with my experiences, I don’t want to go back in time, just to go on 😉
To people starting photography I would suggest to study and learn from mistakes because it’s the only way to grow and become a better photographer. I always try to improve and making mistakes It’s necessary for personal growth, it’s not a bad thing.


7. Where do you turn for motivation and new sources of inspiration?
In everything around me: art, literature, places, history, people… I’m a careful observer.


8. Travel seems to be a recurring theme in your work and possibly in your life: Describe how traveling to new places influences you as a photographer.
Travel is necessary for me, I feel sick if I can’t travel for some reason. Traveling opens your mind and for a photographer this is really important.


9. What is a project you are currently working on, and a project you hope to accomplish in your lifetime?
I have a lot of projects in my mind, I can’t stop my visions, but time is an enemy so I don’t know when I will complete them.


10. What do you think is more important for your craft, passion or dedication?
The study and practice, never stop learning and trying to improve myself every day. If I’m not able to do something then I try and try till I succeed.


11. Does the place you are from/were raised influence your work?
I don’t know. I’ve traveled so much and I have lived in different places, I’m a citizen of the World.