Alisa Martynova used the new Leica Q3 to work on her latest series, Hypnerotomachia Venetiae (2023), which centres around metaphors of transformation. A Renaissance novel and the nature surrounding Venice, characterised by lagoons, inspired her to create dream-like images that she embeds into surreal settings. She spoke with us about how she came to her artistic stance, her sources of inspiration and her experiences with the new Leica Q3.

With your series Hypnerotomachia Venetiae, you make reference to Hypnerotomachia Polifili, a 1499 book by Venetian writer Francesco Colonna. The novel is about a young man looking for his lover in a dream. How did this book influence you and the project?
The book is considered to be one of the most enigmatic and beautiful literary pieces of all time. As mysterious and surprising as Venice itself, the book features a dream within a dream, and its setting is full of imaginary architecture and natural spaces filled with spirits. In the book there is a young man who is looking for his lover: I feel that my project was my search for the true soul of Venice. During the making of this project, I avoided tourist places; I tried to see something that was beneath the beauty of Venetian facades and capture the original environment they were settled in. Analytical studies said that in a book “a dream is a soul’s architecture that raises and decorates the buildings, paints the landscapes and configures the living beings”, which somehow resembles artistic practice to me. Artists create a new reality through their artistic vision.

What sparked your artistic vision?
There was a mixture of things. Since I was little I wanted to be an artist like my aunt. Then my dream was to become an actress, and I attended a theatre school as a hobby and later, during my university years, I acted in an experimental theatre group, and also had a try at directing. When I started stepping back from the theatre, I plunged into film, and my dream became to shoot films. In 2014 I booked my first film-making workshop in Prague, I also took part in a darkroom photography workshop in Florence. Putting my hands into chemicals and printing photos, I got a feeling that photography might be something I could express myself through.

Speaking of expressing yourself, you worked with the Leica Q3 for the first time. What are your impressions of the camera? How does is support your artistic vision?
That’s true, it was the first time I tried it, as the camera is brand new. I liked the experience it gave me. I used to work with a Leica SL before, which provides incredible imagery, though is a bit too heavy to carry around for a long time. The Q3 was an excellent choice for landscapes and long walks looking for subjects.

What did you like most about the camera?
I liked that it has a wide-angle lens with a macro feature. It allowed me to fit a wide area in the frame, creating a sort of pattern out of a landscape; but it also allowed me to get very close to small things. I was used to working only with 50mm and 35mm lenses, so having this 28 mm lens that performs perfectly without distortions set off my creativity and gave me a wider breadth, so to speak. I also enjoyed the feature of architectural auto-correction. Working with buildings, it was sometimes hard to envision how they would turn out once the correction was made, so having that feature helped me to choose my subjects more attentively.

How did that affect the colours and lighting?
The characteristic feature of all Leicas I’ve worked with is their colour rendering and the incredible possibility of working in low light. When I come home, I only have to touch a few settings, but the image is always there already; and, as for the low light, the raw files allow me to pull out light and colour from complete darkness without losing detail. In this project, the Leica Q3 aligned with my spirit of curiosity. With its intuitive and fast performance, it provided an outstanding final result. I love working with Leica cameras; they always feel like an extension of my hand, being at the same time something solid with strong character.

In what ways do the images taken with the Q3 differ from other series you’ve taken before?
As I was saying, it let me play on the contrast of the wide landscape and the smallest elements within it. Due to its light weight, it also let me experiment and manipulate in the moment of shooting. It allowed me to be moving and not stable, which is something I like a lot.

Born in 1994, Orenburg, Russia, Alisa Martynova studied Philology before graduating in Photography from the Fondazione Studio Marangoni in Florence. Her work deals with universal themes such as transformation, space and time, and dreams. Her pictures have appeared in publications such as the Internazionale, D-Repubblica, Leica Fotografie International, Fisheye magazine and 20er magazine. Among other recognitions, she received the World Press Photo Award Portrait Series in 2021, and was nominated for the Leica Oskar Barnack Newcomer Award in 2020 and 2022. Her work has been on display in international galleries and at festivals, including Photo Brussels, Cortona on the Move, Encontros da Imagem and the La Gacilly Photography Festival. Find out more about her photography on her website and Instagram page.

More images from Alisa Martynova’s project can be found in the LFI magazine issue 7/2023.

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