Street chat with Roza Vulf

Casey Meshbesher
Her Side of the Street
6 min readMay 31, 2017


Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, where do you live now? Your background with photography, how and when you were drawn to the street genre.

I was born and spent most of my adult life in Vilnius, Lithuania. At some point I have relocated to Germany. Spent half a decade there until I finally moved to Rome, where I am currently based.

I have always had a tight connection with photography since I was a teenager. I remember I even had an internship in some local newspaper in Vilnius during the Soviet times. Back then, of course, I was shooting on film, using Russian cameras like ‘Smena’ and ‘Zenit’.

But life takes its own turn — I got married, had two kids, and had to get a serious job as well as study. There simply was no time to shoot professionally, so I was taking pictures of my children, family and friends, and developing them myself having a “dark room” in my bathroom.

As time passed by I changed to digital and kept documenting my travels. Until seven years ago, when I moved to Rome and finally got the opportunity to dedicate most of my time to photography. Being self-taught, I relied a lot on books, magazines and the web. I got subscriptions to some photography magazines and educational literature to follow lessons on landscape, macro and everything else that could actually help me develop my skills. As well as photowalks and workshops with some great photographers from around the world, which has helped me to amplify my vision, and to understand my professional standing.

About the genre — though I don’t like to put labels on my photography style and prefer to keep the door open to different genres, I feel most comfortable with street and documentary. It allows me to record real moments of real life that flash briefly past my vision. It is a type of art that gives me a possibility to express myself and sometimes share my feelings.

How do you define “street photography” for yourself?

The first definition that comes to my mind is candid. No staged pictures. No asking permission. No portraits. All of this, in my opinion, belongs to the documentary genre. Street and documentary photography have always been close, sometimes confusing as they are similar but different.

Candid, emotional brief connection with a subject is fundamental in street photography. It is essential to walk the streets with your guard down, being aware, and ready for the unexpected, that’s when it happens. It makes you see those precise moments when you get just a fraction of a second to connect with someone else’s story. It could be a reflection, a light, some facial expression, the wind, a pose, a gesture or just a sentiment. But for me “candid” is the word.

Does your local situation affect your work?

No, I wouldn’t say so. I suppose there is one rule — do not lose respect for one’s privacy. I have read many articles and discussions about so called “laws of photographing” people in public in Italy. But nothing struck my attention as illegal or forbidden. In general people in Italy are laid back and friendly. I can remember just one case when a woman noticed me taking her picture. All it took was to erase it, and she walked on with a smile. When this scenario happened, it meant I was doing something wrong in terms of awakening her awareness of my camera. In any case, I am not interested in confrontation.

In what ways do you think being a woman has affected your work?

In the world of photography the gender issue has never been an issue. However, looking closer into it my entire life experience with many issues, including gender inequality, this has affected my vision. And in the end it is all about being a woman, being a mother, a daughter, a wife.

Nowadays being a male or a female photographer can have some advantages or disadvantages, like anything else. But what is really worrying is that women street photographers have been historically undervalued, despite the excellent work they produce.

Color or black and white, digital or film?

I choose mainly colour. We naturally see in colour, and it depicts our life more precisely. It would be a shame to avoid it. Yet shooting in colour is always more challenging and sometimes, very rarely, the colour gets unleashed and dominates in the wrong way. That is when I convert a photo to black and white. Making it even more disconnected from reality, and bringing in a new layer of fantasy effect to the image.

Some brilliant photography has been done both in colour and in black and white, and in both digital and film. It really doesn’t matter, as it is just a personal artistic approach to the medium. Sometimes I feel nostalgic about film, but at the end of the day, I don’t think I will come back to it. However, “never say never.”

What photographers can you name who are the most inspirational to you?

The word inspiration is a tricky one. For me, inspirational could be a novel, a poem, a painting, the face of a stranger, or a ray of light.

There are so many photographers whose work I love. Garry Winogrand, Helen Levitt, Robert Doisneau, Saul Leiter, Shirley Baker, Stephen Shore, Jacob Aue Sobol, Rebecca Norris Webb, Trent Parke, Darcy Padilla, Jill Freedman to name just a few.

Is there a special project you are working on? Or recurring themes you are often drawn to?

There are a few recurring themes in my work, yes. I love shooting in a city’s underground, especially the one in Rome. Then there are off season beaches, and London’s everyday life. And finally one of my series is called “Illuminated” — a never ending project, as light keeps bringing those recurring, yet sui generis moments.

Roza Vulf | Website | Instagram |