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Conceptual Photography: The Mesmerizing Vision of Photographer Aliza Razell {Interview}

By Chris Nachtwey on April 26th 2014

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At a young age, Massachusetts-based photographer Aliza Razell began creating mesmerizing images using a mix of creative vision, Photoshop, and the occasional watercolor painting as part of her current 365 project. I recently caught up with Aliza to dive deeper into her inspiration and workflow.

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Can you give us a brief introductory of who you are as a photographer?

I really only got into photography recently. After dabbling in it off and on for years, I decided a few months ago to start a 365 project as an excuse to delve a little deeper and make myself learn and create every day. 

What I like to do is to play with photography, to use it as an outlet for story telling and visual poetry. I don’t want to be tied down to one way of taking or processing images—I prefer being free to bend the rules of photography and take it wherever it will go. I like to think of myself as an experimental photographer. 

I love experimenting, and pushing the boundaries of the medium.

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How did you get started in photography?

Photography seeped into me by osmosis. My mother and two of my three brothers are all very into photography. I embarked on a few photography projects with my little brother Zev Hoover when we were younger. Usually, he was the one with the camera and I was the one helping with brainstorming and making sets and modeling. Two years ago, when I was leaving for a year abroad in Finland as an exchange student, I got my own SLR and started playing around on it. Shortly after I returned home, I started a 365 project.

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What inspires you to make the images you do?

Like a lot of photographers, I am heavily inspired by my surroundings. I feel an incredibly strong bond to the natural world around me, and love using photography to illustrate that. My photographs are also fueled by a burning desire to create, a need to express something that can’t be said in everyday life. I like to think of each work as a glimpse into a different life—one that I get to experience while creating the image and I hope viewers can feel when they see the image.

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What is your thought process when creating a new image?

The funny thing about creating every day (like I am with this project) is that you can’t mull over ideas too much. This is both a curse and a blessing. The curse lies in the fact that some concepts need planning, so sometimes I’ve returned to the same idea several times before feeling I’ve done it justice. The blessing lies in the spontaneity of it all. A lot of images that I’ve ended up being rather pleased with come from a seed of inspiration that I might otherwise have ignored or written off as useless.

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What is your typical post-production workflow?

That really depends on the piece, but most of my photos use the Brenizer Method and include several images that I stitch together by hand in Photoshop. If I am combining watercolors with the image, I create the painting separately and combine it with the photo in Photoshop.

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Gear Used

Nikon D7000

Nikon 85mm f/1.4

Nikon 35mm f/1.8

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Do you have any advice for a new photographer who wants to make conceptual images?

The only advice I have is to shoot, and to keep shooting. For conceptual images, the most important part is arguably the concept, but no matter how stellar your concepts are, you will have a hard time getting them across unless you are familiar with the other aspects of photography. I’m a firm believer that your best photo is the one you haven’t taken yet, so don’t get caught up on what you’ve already made. Keep looking forward and keep trying new things.

You can see more of Aliza’s work here: Flickr and Facebook

CREDITS: All photographs by: Aliza Razell are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

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  1. Aaron Cheney

    I absolutely love her work!

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