Born in the small town of Lviv in western Ukraine, fine art photographer Oleg Oprisco is known for producing medium-format images of dreamlike scenes. Amidst the Russian invasion of his country, Oprisco’s work has gained a sense of aching wistfulness for the peace Ukraine enjoyed not so long ago. Though tinged with an air of surreality, his photographs depict modern-day Ukrainian women set against beautiful backdrops like fields of sunflowers in the idyllic countryside, amusement parks, libraries, and ancient architecture in cities like Kyiv and Odesa.

Oprisco’s career began when he got a job at a photo lab at age 16, where he mastered the stages of printing both film and digital photography. As a lab operator, he got to fine-tune his ability to adjust the colors in thousands of images a day, taking a particular interest in identifying the types of images and poses his customers loved most. This inspired him to pick up a medium format camera called the Kiev 6C in 2009. Medium format photography is captured on wide, square-shaped film with four times the resolution of 35mm images and naturally occurring out-of-focus areas called bokeh. That’s what helps produce the dreamy effect.

Oprisco doesn’t plan his photo series too far ahead, preferring to do whatever inspires him most in the moment. A prevailing theme in his portfolio is simply seeking out beauty in everyday places. Preferring to keep post-production to a minimum, the photographer makes his own real props and uses Photoshop only for minor things like dust, scratches, and color-correction. Every picture is a unique story told through perspective, angles, props, the color palette, and the models’ poses. To get everything just right, he uses notes, sketches, and a whole lot of preparation. It’s worthwhile to wait for everything to align — even the weather — to get the best possible images.

“There is inspiration all around us,” Oprisco told 500px. “Everything that happens in our lives is a unique source of inspiration. There’s no sense in stealing someone else’s. Only the original is a unique creation. Be sure any artist of the 18th century, the 19th century is very jealous of us. We can live anywhere and create anything and show it around the world. Everything is in our hands.”

Many of Oprisco’s photographs are uniquely compelling, but they’ve all gained a little bit of extra fascination this year. The viewer can’t help but wonder whether the scenes and buildings depicted still exist as they look in these otherworldly images. Like all photographs, Oprisco’s work freezes tiny moments in time, infused with a broader sense of the contemporary cultural and social context, even if the photos seem to exist outside of time and place. The Ukrainian national identity is present in the models, the clothing, the settings, and even modern updates on the traditional flower crown known as the vinok.

“Like every Ukrainian, I love freedom,” says Oprisco. “I like the ability to stop time and create my version of reality.”

If you love Oprisco’s work, be sure to keep up with it on Instagram @olegoprisko.