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Artist of the Week – Valentin Nanovsky

March 16, 2009 by · 3 comments

Vanya Nikolaeva

How long have you been photographing? What is photography to you?

I’ve been photographing for about 15 years. Everything started at Parallax Photo Club, Sofia, Bulgaria. At that point I was in my freshman year at Sofia University. Since then the flame has been burning increasingly. I really grew up as a photographer over the last couple of years, when I started shooting professionally.

/More photos by Valentin Nanovsky here/

At this stage to me photography is a way of thinking. Wherever I go, I try to imagine the surrounding world through the lens. I try to see how things change when I move the camera; how they interact with each other, and look in different light conditions or color temperature. And watching myself, I now realize how much I have changed through the years and also how deep this extra dimension is. Thanks to photography I now see the world differently. I am enriched, more fulfilled, and happier.

What do you prefer to photograph?

Professionally I do wedding and commercial photography. My personal work is mostly related to landscape and modern architecture. That’s what relaxes and at the same time stimulates me. When I take a landscape or an architectural photo which I think is really good, I feel invigorated, enriched and purified. And as trivial as it may seem, the connection with nature is extremely important to me. Photographing landscapes gives me a great opportunity to be among what I really love. I absolutely treasure that.

Lately I’ve been shooting artistic portraiture. I used to do a lot of static work before I decided to try my luck in this field. Photographing people is a completely different ball game – it is so deep and fulfilling – and at the same time refreshing – on a whole new level. Communication with the model is essential here, along with everything else you need to be watching for as a photographer. I have always been extroverted and had the need to communicate with people. And from that perspective portraits really give me a lot.

What is your recipe for a good photograph?

Firstly, a photograph should have a strong emotional charge. That charge normally stems from the subject and how people relate to that subject.

Speaking of that, it is important who the audience is and how popular the topic is among that audience. For example, if there is an exhibition in Kona, HI, and the images are of the nearby volcano, those images aren’t as likely to gain as much attention as they would, say, in Europe. This is true not only from a geographical, but from many other aspects. In other words, if an image shows something new and original in a certain way, it will have an impact and the audience will be interested.
In addition to the above, to me there are several factors which are essential in a photograph: color, form, clean design, dynamic composition, texture, and light.

Color plays a big role in my style. Sometimes colors are completely desaturated, but strong colors are dominant in most of my photography. To me color gives the image a distinctive pop and makes a photo really stand out. Combined with simple forms and clean design it often produces unique results. Images containing just one or two elements are visually stronger and catchier – from that perspective I try to keep my work really simple and uncluttered.

What I also pay attention to is my composition and how lines and shapes interact with each other. Dynamic imagery with a sense of urgency through the use of perspectives and diagonal lines are among the trademarks of my work.

Last, but definitely not least, I often play with contrasts in texture, as well as with light variations. These have so many qualities. They truly offer a whole universe of ideas a photographer could study and experiment with.

I’ve been practicing with these for such a long time that they have become subconscious to me, no matter whether I am shooting or editing. They are fundamental in each image I produce. If they are well executed, the image will be fulfilling to me as a photographer, and from another perspective, will impact the viewer.

Technical execution is of great importance to achieve a punchy final result as well. Without being an end in itself, to me technique is the natural extension of my hands and thoughts. I participate in photo contests on a regular basis. Often I see images with brilliant ideas behind them, but with less than perfect technical qualities. For example, in a beautiful and wonderfully lit face portrait the focus falls on the nose or the hair and not on the eyes. Hence, the photograph loses points and doesn’t score well. On the other hand photographs with not so impressive ideas are being scored well because of their sharpness, exposure, popping colors.

Even though the idea gets somewhat lost, and people don’t pay much attention to it, the image has an impact on the audience and ends up winning a high score.

Editing is also a very important aspect. We live in a digital era – no image gets published directly from the camera sensor nowadays. Editing is a clearly defined creative process, another level of personal photographic interpretation. All the way from RAW conversion to pixel-level touch up in Photoshop, editing is often the “make it or brake it” factor which directly affects whether we as viewers will be captivated by an image or will just take a quick look at it and move on.

There are no formulas here, but it is important that the photographer is well aware what he or she would like to achieve, has a good command of the tools provided and doesn’t just improvise. In my case that is a constantly evolving process – I am always on the lookout for new and better ways to achieve certain technical goals. I should mention though, that I rarely use filters in PS. What I mostly tweak there is selective color, exposure and curves, dodging and burning.

Ideally a great photograph is produced by carefully balancing everything discussed so far. I don’t claim that this is a thorough list, or the recipe above is “the one” – everybody is free to make their own choices in making photographs. In my particular case this formula is a result of many observations, tweaks and adjustments through the years, and is proving to work well.

What motivates you?

To me every photo is an experiment. I like to experiment, and what motivates me is the thought that tomorrow I’ll see something new and energizing, meet interesting people, make new friends, or try a new shooting / editing technique.

If life was a photograph, what would that photograph look like?

That is a very interesting question. Right now I am thinking of those big collages of faces or something else, put together using thousands of small thumbnails. Each of these thumbnails is a different and unique image.
…But ask me again tomorrow – maybe I’d have a different answer for you then.

Is there a specific place you would like to photograph?

I have made a huge list of interesting locales I would like to photograph, mostly in North America, but some in my native Bulgaria. The more I know about new countries, the more places will be added to this list. New places definitely give me more energy and help me generate fresh ideas, but inspiration hits me even when I visit old and well known ones – like the next door neighborhood park, for instance.

Often I photograph some of my best work there. Every time I visit an old place my attention gets caught by something new or something I have not seen before. What turns me on could be something really small – a slight change in the waterfall, the river, the tree, the building, or another dress my model could be wearing.

What would you be doing if you were not photographing?

Video, web design and multimedia. These are my other passions. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

I dream of … having the opportunity to reach my goals without being hampered by the problems of our times and the circumstances surrounding me.

I believe in … the talent, knowledge and skills I have. I believe in myself.

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