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Photographer Simone Betz: ‘Nothing is impossible’

Simone Betz—aka ROVA Design—loves to photograph people and help them discover their own story. For Simone, photography isn’t simply an image, but a transformative process.

Simone Betz, the heart and soul behind ROVA Design, is a fine arts photographer specialising in digital and analogue surreal portraiture.

Philosophically, Simone approaches her work through the Buddhist concept that all life is in a state of flux—even something seemingly motionless is in a state of change. The stillness in each of Simone’s pieces shows a deeper movement of inner life.

Tell us a little bit about how you first got into photography.

The first thing I remember is a school summer class, where I borrowed the SLR from my dad to take some pictures and develop them in the darkroom. That was probably when I was 10 years old. The first film I ever exposed was completely overexposed and nothing was there, so I tried again, and I guess that’s when I fell in love with the magic and the process of photography.

Have you always been into fine art photography?

No, I started like most of us, taking pictures from everything that surrounded me—flowers, landscapes and on my travels. It wasn’t until 2015 when I started experimenting with conceptual photography and started from an idea that was in my mind. It was then that I fell in love with the idea that nothing is impossible, and that we can create anything we have ever dreamed of…

Shoot for the Moon by Simone Betz
Do you have any favourite photographers that inspire you?

Oh yes, too many… there are, or have been, so many awesome artists out there. I love the surrealist artists like Salvador Dali and the early works of Lee Miller. Also, contemporary photographers like Kristian Schuller, Brooke Shaden and Annie Leibovitz, whose works tell a deeper story. They are more than just a flat image or portrait, they are deeper, layered and your eyes stay longer than just one second.

The making of Burn by Simone Betz
We love your creative thinking and imagination. What drove your creative imagination when you were younger?

Wow, that’s a really good question! I honestly have no idea—I should ask my mum about that. In general, I always loved imaginative stories like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and The Little Prince, where characters explore new worlds or create their own.

We have heard you like to travel for your photography. Where is your favourite location and why?

The world… yes, I know, not the kind of answer you expected, but our world is so big and fascinating that you can explore something beautiful wherever you go. I love hidden places or areas, usually in the countryside where nature creates a surreal atmosphere.

One of my favourite places to go is Iceland, because around every corner you see something that you thought couldn’t exist within our world. However, the same can also happen in places near where I live in Germany as well. I love fog and moody forests—they create that surreal scenery themselves, and therefore make it easy for me to get inspired.

“I love fog and moody forests—they create that surreal scenery themselves.”

What fascinates you in places that you shoot?

Mostly the atmosphere, the mood, a shape or sometimes it’s just a feeling like the one I had when I saw this massive, powerful waterfall in Iceland. I immediately had this feeling of being overwhelmed, and that the whole world seemed to be ‘too much’ that I suddenly knew what picture I wanted to take.

Waterfall by Simone Betz
We love how each one of your photographs tell a story. Where do you get your inspiration from?

It can be totally different—sometimes I’ve got an idea that comes to my mind resulting from a feeling or emotion, but I can’t take the picture immediately, so I use my little notebook to draw a sketch. Unfortunately, I’m really bad at sketching humans, so no one else knows what I want in that picture except me. Anyway, it reminds me of the emotion or mood I wanted to create. Other times it’s nature and the places themselves that inspire me, like an empty, half sunken boat a befriended photographer found once where I created a triptych with one model. Sometimes it’s poetry, a word or a story a friend tells me, and I’ve got an emotion to go with it…

You’ve recently had your first exhibition. How did it go and what did you enjoy about it?

Oh, it was amazing—I loved to just watch the visitors strolling through the exhibition and see the expressions on their faces. I’m such a visual person and love looking at pictures on a wall. As a viewer, you slow down and let the picture grab you. We live in a world where we are bombarded with millions of images every day, and I think that makes it hard to connect with the soul of artworks and really take the time to dive in and let yourself get lost. I wanted to give the opportunity to some great artists around my area and invite them to be part of a group exhibition—also because I was too scared to exhibit on my own. It was a lot of work, but worth every second.

“I loved to just watch the visitors strolling through the exhibition and see the expressions on their faces.”

How much editing goes into each one of your photographs, and how long does it take to complete?

Usually a lot, but that depends on the picture. Most of the time I´ve got a clear vision of how the final image looks in my mind, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out as I’ve planned it to. I guess that’s what life is about… Finding your way and adjusting your original path. Sometimes it can take days or weeks of adjusting the picture until I’m fully satisfied—for one picture it took half a year until I found the right anchor to photograph at the Faroe islands to totally finish the image off.

Talk us through your editing process.

I usually start with Lightroom (only because you guys don’t have a rating system yet) to select the pictures I want to use or combine, and directly import them from there to Affinity Photo. Then I start with expanding the frame to a square picture—I just love the square format and try to avoid cropping so I can print a bigger image at a later date. Then it really depends on the image: sometimes I combine many until the final result is how I’ve imagined before. Last of all, I adjust the light, contrast and the curves.

Most of my colour pictures, for example, don’t have a definite black point, and I’m obsessed with blue tones, so colour plays a huge role for me. Mostly I let the picture rest a bit and go back to it another day to have a fresh view and ask myself if there is anything that I could do better. Sometimes I send it to a friend who I know is very honest with me and ask for her opinion.

We have read that you used to be a big fan of Adobe. What made you change to Affinity Photo?

Haha, yes. I mean to be honest there was no real competitor in the market at the time, and I grew up with Photoshop, but I was really disappointed when Adobe decided to switch to the cloud concept. I bought Lightroom 5 just a couple of months before and got a medium format camera borrowed from Ricoh, the 645z for a special project, but Adobe didn’t update my LR 5 anymore so I had no chance other than switching to CC during that time. But I hated that a company gave me no choice, and that I had to pay a lot of money for something I didn’t earn in the end—that was just something I couldn’t connect to.

Shortly after, a friend of mine introduced me to Affinity Photo, so I decided to give it a try. The first challenge was to isolate a bird’s wing from the background and it worked really well, so I was on fire and happy to finally find a program that could cope with Photoshop. Also, the switch was really easy—some of the shortcuts worked the same, and after a couple of days I found myself at home with Affinity. I love the Live Filters and that I can adjust them later if I wish, and the selection tools are brilliant and so quick.

What advice would you have for people who are thinking about purchasing Affinity Photo?

Give it a try—even for just a couple of minutes—and I’m sure you’ll love it!

You can find more of Simone’s stunning work here.

Artist relations

Amy is part of our artist relations team here at Serif. Amy loves going for walks with her little boy and going to the gym, which she offsets by drinking tea and eating biscuits. Get in touch with Amy if you have work you have made in Affinity apps to share with us, she always loves getting great creative work in her inbox, or tag your work with #madeinaffinity in the usual places.

Credits & Footnotes

All images © Simone Betz