Talks about photography, with Romy

Romy Soda is a photographer who combines analogue and digital. With her tendency towards the experimental, in this talk, she tells us about her vision of photography as art, the magic of capturing moments, preferably by skipping the rules, the personal search and her latest project "Stay inspired", that she developed in Fuerteventura supported by the brand Lomography.

What is your personal definition of photography?

For me, photography is an art. The art of capturing the moment and making it last forever. I also like experimentation and playing with photos, with colours, with shutter speeds, with everything that is a little bit different from traditional photography.

Let’s take writing as an example everyone can relate to: We all have a different way of writing, an individual handwriting, is it the same with photography?

Of course, in the end, it's like the personal vision of each one of us. I mean, we can both have a camera and take photos of the same thing, but they probably come out completely different, because we both focus our view on something different, maybe a detail. You are struck by one detail, and I am struck by another. It's each one's vision of the world, which is very broad.

For you, is it something you either have or you don’t? That vision of the world or the capacity to grasp it?

No, it's something that everyone has and that you can develop, of course. Also, in the end, as I said, for me it's an art. Maybe I don't understand your vision of the world, maybe I see your photo and I don't like it, but it's not because you're not doing well, it's because we have different visions of the world. So I think it's something that is neither developed nor learned, but rather the vision that each person has, which you can notice in the different styles. Afterward, there will be people who, as in everything, will take styles from others or learn to do it in a certain way, but for me, it's something super organic or natural. It's like everyone has a vision, something that catches their attention. At least, I've always done photography with that in mind.

And in your opinion, what's the best way to develop that vision?

By practicing. Practice, which means studying at the same time, gives you a lot of basics, an understanding of some of the visual rules or how the mechanics of the camera work. And it's also good to know these things in order to break the rules. But in the end for me, it's the development of each person, you learn how you observe or how to figure out or to say I have this idea, let's see how I can achieve it. For me, the only way is by doing it.

How long have you been involved in photography?

Let's see, I've been working as a photographer since I arrived at the island, which is four years now. Before that I worked in Argentina, well, with a friend we had a business. To survive and pay our bills, we took photos on 15th birthdays and weddings and things like that, but apart from that we had a project called Fototerapia. I would even like to take it up again. It was about expressing yourself through photography. So you could choose your own costume and express whatever you wanted through a camera. It was like inventing a character. It's like what happens to me too, I'm super shy in front of the camera, and that happens to a lot of people. This way you can break the ice and get over that awkwardness. On that project we were working since we were 18. But then my camera was stolen in Argentina, which, to put it in a nutshell, is why I left. After that, starting photography in Barcelona was difficult for me. I felt like I was among a lot of people in a place where I didn't know anyone, because to gain security in this profession, you have to work on it over the years. Or at least that's how it was for me. I was always very insecure about my photography and had to develop my self-esteem for it. But then I went to Andorra and there, in 2011, I got back to photography, then I put it aside again for a while, and now I'm back.

In other words, photography has always accompanied you, sometimes more, sometimes less. When you say that in Barcelona there were a lot of people, is that something similar to what’s happening with social networks now, that every two seconds a photo appears, and it seems that anyone is a photographer?

I think what happened to me in Barcelona was also a bit like an excuse of myself for not having enough strength and self-confidence to say, well, I want to work in this field and I want to go in for it a hundred percent. I had to overcome my own monsters from before, which I had a hard time with, and I still have some of them there. But now I look back, and I say, I could have done things differently. I mean, it was more of an excuse for myself than anything else. And about the many people and that anyone can be a photographer, I think it's always the same. I mean, anyone can buy a camera, but afterward one also has to know how to find their own style, to know what they want to communicate. There are things that not everyone knows how to do, even if it seems that they do, or it seems that you just press a button and that's it. Or when they tell you what a great camera you have, the amazing photos it takes. But it's like, no, you can have the same camera as me and we'll take completely different photos. It kills me when people have a reflex camera and take pictures in automatic mode during the day with flash. That's why I think there are still things that make a difference. It’s not even about studying or practicing, but about the artistic sensibility, from my point of view. Even if anyone has access to taking photos, which is not the same as working as a doctor for example, I don't think everyone has the artistic sensitivity to develop that sensibility. Later, with time, maybe they will, but I don't see it as a threat. For those who understand art and those who understand photography, there will always be a difference.

Do you think the way photography is perceived as an art has changed?

I don't know if it has changed. I've often come across people who take it as something very mechanical, but I think it’s something very personal. It's not that at night I have to set this ISO and this speed of light and do it exactly like that. And on the other hand, there are people who maybe are more like me, who try different things even though they know what configuration for which conditions they have to set. You try to get different effects. So I don't think it has changed. Taking photos now is easier and more accessible to everyone, that's for sure. In the end we all have a mobile phone and mobile phones have incredible cameras with perhaps more megapixels than a reflex camera, but I don't think it has changed too much.

Talking about technical aspects, conditions and experimenting: you also take pictures in the water not only on land, for you is there a difference between taking pictures in the water and on land? If you say that just depending on the conditions you like to experiment, does it give you different sensations?

Yes, it is completely different. Firstly because for me, it was something new, as I might have started 3 years ago with water photography. So to be in a different environment and to see things from a different world view, because you're in the water and everything is completely different, that's impressive. And then also it's very difficult.

And do you have a preference, in which situation do you like to take pictures the most?

It depends on the photo. I don't have a preference. Obviously in the water there is something I love about it, but because I also like the connection with the ocean and enjoy that combination. In the end, because it's something new, it still always surprises me. Because it's also constantly moving, you take a few pictures of a wave and they're always different. That keeps me more stimulated, but I also like to take pictures from the outside. It depends on what the idea behind the photograph is.

When you're in the water, as you say it's in constant movement, what is it that catches your attention the most? What is the most important thing in the water for you?

The texture of the water is something unbelievable. Maybe I go in, and I take 100 pictures of water texture and I can't delete them, even if they're shit, and you say what are you doing with this picture. But it's like, oh look at the bubble, the light is just right. The texture is something impressive. And then I also love taking photos of surfing and people moving, but there's something in the water that makes it very special. And I've never taken pictures of animals in the water. If I ever get to see an animal in the water, I’ll die of emotion. I mean, yes, I've photographed little fish, but I don't know… if I come across a turtle with a camera, I die. I mean, if I scream seeing animals in the water when I don't have a camera, imagine…

What would be your favourite destination to take pictures in the water?

I don't know, that's a very difficult question. Because to take pictures in the water you have to be very clear about the conditions of the place. But I don't know, the coral reef. Of course, there are a lot of colours underwater. Or Ibiza. It happened to me, when I went to Ibiza a few years ago, I don't know if I had my camera, I don't think I took it with me. But there are those huge plants under the water, posidonias! They are amazing, and now I think it would have been beautiful to take pictures there. I mean, I was already there, and I thought wow, what is all this? But I didn't have the camera.

This year, you have also been working on a personal project that you recently presented in an exhibition. Why did you want to do it?

Well, the project is called "Stay inspired" and it's something I really like, because I'm super restless and I need to have these personal things just for me, because, in the end, if your passion is your work, because photography is what I love and what I like doing and what I like to work with, but in the end everything always becomes a routine, and you end up taking photos of the same things, the same conditions all the time. So at some point the activity becomes mechanic, but having personal projects makes you leave that comfort zone and have to look for other ways. This project with Lomography was great for me because it was like going back to analogue photography, which I hadn't used for a long time, and I love the whole experience.

What was it like to put the idea into practice?

At the beginning I was very anxious, but then I got into the mood of "let's wait and see", a dynamic that I had already lost. I'm very happy because I got all the results I had imagined, and I'm happy to have been able to carry out all the ideas I had in my head. In the end, as it was a project for me, I also wanted it to be something very much my own. Even the way of creating it and imagining it was very personal, it was very useful to use my intuition and imagination. It was like "Oh, with this person I can think of such and such a thing", very informal, let's say. So the challenge was whether these things that I had in my head, that were going anywhere, whether I could really carry them out. It’s also about not looking for perfection and letting a little go of the control that digital technology gives us now. That's why the search was not to try to fit into a technical or social perfection, it was more to let oneself be surprised by the moment and by the results afterward.

Now, the most difficult part of the project?

The biggest challenge was to get back into the mood of analogue photography, which has other possibilities and other limitations. At the beginning I thought that the most difficult part would be water photography of surfing, because getting the moment without digital technology and the famous burst, requires a very specific timing. But in the end it was a surprise, because I had to be more present in the moment and shoot with awareness, which made me enjoy the whole experience even more. As it's not the first project I've done, this time I wanted to do it with enough time. So it was not only important to me that it’s very personal and free, but I also wanted to have time without having to rush, because that's when everything starts to get complicated. When you have to do everything at the last minute. So I did it, reserving almost 6 months, super calm, in my free time when I had the energy to do it and that made everything easier. The idea was to enjoy it, not to make it just another stressful job.

You can visit the exhibition online on Romy's website.

Thank you very much Romy!



by Giulia Parise