“Should I move it to the right? Just a little bit… No, no, no. Now the shadow is ruining the whole composition. I’ll place the basket where it was, and turn the sunflowers. That should work. And maybe some oranges on the table… Laura, could you bring me three oranges and one lemon from the kitchen please?”
The year 2000. Early June in a French house near Bergerac. 10-year old Laura Vanzo is watching her mom meticulously arrange objects for a still life composition in their living room.
Three sunflowers carefully placed in a blue glass vase. Yellow tablecloth and blue fabric for the background. Perfectly positioned fruit and a few branches of mimosa laid around. A gentle touch of the evening sun streaming through the window and a couple of soft light lamps. The set-up is ready.
Laura loves watching her mom at work. She is curious about the play of light and shadow and the vibrant rich colors that a good composition can reveal. She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is learning a lot about complementary colors and photography technics.
And yet, she feels that still life is not for her. As a child, she doesn’t understand this world and only sees the constraints of the process: how difficult it is to get one image done, and how much time it takes.
After flying the nest, Laura discovers a whole new world of photography. Not the photography her mom was into. A different kind.
She starts travelling and taking pictures of people, nature, places and moments. She starts seeing the world differently, spotting things that a naked eye can’t notice.
She finds beauty in the unexpected freedom of this art. In a broken window glass; in the sunlight filtering through the autumn leaf; in the suspicious look of a ram in Connemara; in the silhouette of her dad wearing a hat; in seagulls flying over the waves; in the steam vents of Iceland; in the colorful doors of Berber homes; and in the eyes of a street dog.
She discovers freedom in the craft that, as a child, she saw as full of constraints.
“Since 2010 I would see things for real, as they are. Photography made me more connected to my surroundings and details. It made me a little bit more self-confident.”
Photography becomes her true passion. On weekdays she’s a receptionist at a watch store in Switzerland, but every weekend she is a curious explorer of the world with her Canon camera always by her side.
Laura’s perfecting her craft, sharing her art on social media for photographers, and making new friends along the way.
She’s an accomplished photographer now. She took thousands of pictures and can spot a good visual story in almost anything.
Late 2014. Laura moves to Tampere to live side by side with Tommi, the love of her life and husband-to-be. Coincidentally, they met a couple of years earlier on a social media platform for photographers.
In Tampere, Laura is mesmerized by the diverse landscape—the vast lakes with no horizon, the red brick factory buildings reflected in the dark waters of the rapids, the colorful wooden houses and the mighty stone ridges covered by age-long pines and spruce trees.
And, of course, the real turning of seasons which she never experienced before. The white blankets of frost that cover the ground, the first buds of new leaves and the cherry blossom, the appearance of blueberries in the forest, and the vibrant colors of the leaf fall.
“There was so much inspiration. Every time I went out, I would feel deep regret if I’d left my camera at home.”
Her love for photography is growing and evolving. She takes thousands of photos and shares them with everyone to show people what she sees and to help them fall in love with her newfound home.
“Photography brought me the love of my life and the city I fell in love with, and the lifestyle of my dreams. Photography has been the trigger for all the happiness in my life. And it’s good that in Tampere I could spread my wings like a butterfly.”
A cold winter afternoon by Lake Näsijärvi. The sky is painted in pastel colors, from pinkish and purple to light blue. The waves of the lake have frozen and turned into massive white sculptures of snow.
Everything is still and silent. You can barely hear the noise coming from a road nearby. The sounds and shapes are softened.
Laura is getting ready to take her next shot. She ends up lying on the ground — that’s where the best angles are.
She doesn’t mind the cold even though it’s twenty below zero. She’s here to capture the elusive beauty of the moment. She’s here to do the photography that makes her heart beat faster.
Photo credits: (c) Laura Vanzo
Text: Grigory Kharitidis