England-based photographer Veronika Lavey is a self-taught artist who uses inspiration from poetry, novels, and personal emotions to produce moody, conceptual images that are akin to paintings.
With a background in creative writing and literature, Lavey has tried multiple outlets for her creativity over the years, including painting, sewing, and sculpture. It wasn’t until 2012 that she picked up photography.
“I didn’t have a camera, so I used my phone to take pictures of my family and our lives,” she tells PetaPixel. “It sparked a little something, so I pursued it and pushed further. I attended street photography workshops, documentary portraiture workshops, and whilst I liked elements of both, neither ignited a passion.”
At the urging of her grandfather and friends, she found her way to the library at the Hereford College of Arts and found books related to conceptual photography and self-portraiture.
“As soon as I started flicking through these pages I had goosebumps on my arms and felt excitement like no other,” she says. “This was it! That was what I was looking for all along.”
Once she started down this path, Lavey initially started to look for more inspiration from other photographers, but found that in doing so she started to lose her own particular path and style.
“The last thing I wanted to do was imitate, so I made a decision to focus on getting inspiration from other art forms to help fuel my own authentic voice: films, poetry, novels, paintings – again my college library membership came very useful here in finding art books,” she explains. “Once I settled down and was confident enough in my own voice I reconnected with artists from my genre of photography and we continue to support one another.”
Lavey says that she doesn’t have a particular single way that leads her to create an image, but rather uses experience and personal emotions to drive the creative process.
“It may be that I feel frustrated with a certain emotion or situation I’m in and I feel the need to create around that,” Lavey explains. “Or it may be as simple as going for a walk in the woods and seeing a twist in a tree, or a hole in the ground and that will start to paint an image in my mind.”
Regardless of how an idea for an image comes into her mind, the next step is to cultivate the concept by drawing it in her sketchbook.
“There is one thing in common no matter how the idea came about: there is always a story! I more often than not write a short story or poetry to accompany my pieces,” she says.
The process of making her photos is very simple once the idea is firmly in place.
“I am a natural light photographer, though I’m a bit picky in that I only shoot on predominantly overcast days,” she says. “My kit consists of my camera, an 85mm prime, a 24-70mm zoom lens, and a tripod. I don’t do fancy lighting or reflectors, though I admire those who do. I pack my backpack with the my shortlist of gear, an appropriate costume and props, and head into the woods, into a field, or simply my own back garden and position myself in ways that is at least similar to the original sketch I made.”
Lavey sayas that she almost always photographs each piece of her eventual composite herself, but on occasion uses stock photos when she cannot access a particular element of her vision where she lives.
“Sometimes I allocate days where I would walk into town specifically to shoot nothing but textures I would later overlay a piece,” she says.
Once the photos are done, Lavey says the most fun comes in post-production.
“The fun bit for me begins on the screen,” she says. “Editing, compositing, playing with color and lighting is where the magic happens.”
The images here are part of her series called Emergence, where Lavey says she is exploring the themes of finding hope and beauty amidst feelings of despair and darkness.
“[These are ]states of being I see as common ground on which people can connect not only with my pieces but with each other also,” she says.
In the end, what is most important to Lavey is forming a connection between herself, her images, and the people that see them.
“I strongly believe that we are all connected through the stories we live,” she says. “Everyone has a story that another can relate to and that is precious when the world sometimes feels so divided. The stories I convey base themselves on the struggles we can find ourselves in and the hope we can all find to help us climb out of the darkness. This series and whatever series I will make in the future will always have roots in my desire to connect people to each other and to finding beauty and a sense of belonging.”
Image credits: Photos by Veronika Lavey and used with permission.