Sinziana Velicescu is your Urban Guru in Los Angeles’s Forgotten Backstreets

Championing the empty backstreets of suburbia, Sinziana Velicescu – the photographer and filmmaker based in California – is telling another story of Los Angeles. Her project Casual Time Travel explores the forgotten glimpses of everyday life.


Sinziana’s photography is itself an ode to clean compositional lines and satisfying colour combinations. Her topographic focus has earned her awards and her myriad projects have a place among art galleries as they do photobooks.

We had a chat with the Sinziana to touch base on what’s important to her work as an artist.

THE PLUS: You have numerous other projects from all over the world, but Casual Time Travel is a project of yours with its own dedicated Instagram. How did the series come about? 
Sinziana Velicescu:
Actually, Casual Time Travel is essentially a culmination of all of my work over the last few years. I decided to name the series after my Instagram user handle, which also used to be my AIM screen name in high school.

It was by chance that I started photographing subject matter that ended up fitting the phrase “casual time travel”, which I now see as a way to use photography to travel through multiple realities, time periods, mixing the past and present and subject matter that is constantly in flux.


TP: You work mostly with square-format images. Square-format images have become part of the everyday with the rise of Instagram. What do you enjoy about composing in this aspect ratio and what’s important about it, for you?
I strive to create a perfectly balanced photograph. It’s easy to use the square format to do this as it’s almost entirely reduced to composition by way of it being square.


TP: You feature a lot of colourful architecture and pastel colours. Do you have a specific approach to colour in mind?
Since I was a kid, I always enjoyed the work of abstract expressionists and colour field painters – like Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly, and Josef Albers. Their use of colour is something that as a child you are immediately drawn to – and I think these initial impressions have subconsciously stuck with me my entire life. I’m a very aesthetic person to the point that shapes, lines, composition, and colour matter more to me than the actual subject.


TP: You’ve said you focus on human intervention in nature. What interests you most about this?
There is something very haunting about a single structure intruding on the natural landscape. It tells the story of how we as humans are always trying to conquer and tame the landscape. A single tree growing through a concrete crack tells us a story of how the wild cannot be tamed. 


TP: Are there any social, political or environmental changes you feel strongly about in your work?
All of my work documents some kind of changing landscape – whether it’s something as small a wall surface that gets repainted over time, or a broader concept like America’s expansion into the West and the subsequent remains of forgotten places. These changes reflect anthropological patterns within our society, and almost always have an environmental impact on the landscape around us. 


TP: Being a filmmaker, too, do you find your work in that medium influences your photography at all?
I would say it’s the opposite as composition heavily influences my film work – but at the end of the day, the way I see photography is very different from the conventional ways a film is made, everything from the way my subjects are lit – the opposite way they’d be lit in a movie – to the fact that I shoot mostly with a square format. If I was shooting people, I’d probably be more interested in an entirely different approach. In my case, the subject matter defines the approach.


TP: In your opinion, can photography be said to have a single, definable purpose? If so, what is it for you?
For me as a photographer, the purpose is to be able to create an alternate reality for my viewers without needing to use a paintbrush or a pencil. The camera is a tool that allows me to share with people my personal take on the world I inhabit.