My goal was to photograph reality in a way that it no longer looks real, palpable, but more like we are made of mist, particles or light waves. A photograph that depicts reality in an unreal way.
Within the City
In the city, beneath the passing time that affects all visible light, faces in photos blur to ghost-like and un-recognizable. I keep telling people walking by to relax, that I won’t steal their faces with this photo camera, some believe me, due to my strange movements. Some do not. To me, on my digital canvas, the city fades to dark ghosts populating all the streets, sometimes a face fixes through, a car is frozen liquid in the frame. All cities look somehow already ancient to me, as if our civilization has already become the stuff of dreams and fog, in a premonition of the future. Maybe our destiny as a race will be different, and my visions of the ruins will not come to pass afterall.
This has been a long journey and adventure, I have travelled in many locations: Venice, Bucharest, Barcelona, Rome, Kyoto, Paris and many other small cities in my own country. To me, the city has the unseen mystery of old forgotten civilizations, an air that resembles a dwelling of ghosts, a depiction of the fabled citadels of light. I use the ICM technique as I search for the universal, the persona, people are rendered with no name or face, streets and cars lost in fog, light reflecting and leaving glowing streaks behind as I move the camera to capture the ephemeral: here, time is never frozen, just slowed down.
Usually I looked for both the abstract and the partially discernable, enveloping city scenes in the light that seemed to bleed like vapour. Each careful shot demanded trial and error for the right mood and effect. I searched for scenes that were suited to this type of technique and light painting with the digital sensors: railways, crowds, busy intersections, streets after the rain (photographing that with backlight). I stalked busy and crowded intersections, tram and bus stations, passages, reflection puddles, clouds, buildings flanked by trees, archways, tower structures, panorama points, anticipating people’s direction of movement in an instant, running as the sun went low in the sky. In the architectural sense, the city offered a treasure trove for composition. Beauty came out of the mundane and took away the dirt, raging noise, filthy air, traffic jams, tired people going maybe nowhere. They all became souls somehow, turning from the smoky countenance of shadow ghosts to the intense white of light souls. I saw that inversion as a separate story in this project. In the negative, we were all made of brilliance, though that as well was too insubstantial not to be swept away by the winds.
Cities have hollowed streets, strange details, hidden parks and statues. They have to be explored on foot, with and without a modern map. The eye will constantly pick new aspects and try to transform them into meaning somehow. The city was bland - I made it fairy-like. Some places have great inner magic in them, such as Venice, but others, as is the case of Bucharest, seem to harbor a mood of dark melancholy. Medieval Church fortress cities as Sibiu and Brasov, cultural heritages such as Rome or Kyoto, mirages such as Venice, the surreal sorcery of Gaudi’s Barcelona, all the cities gave me the feeling of a centrifugal force that draws minds and creates choices, though in this sense each encounter with the city has also forced me away from its heart, to be a refugee into the peaceful arms of nature.
Theater Festival Street Shows
Then there was the opportunity of three years of FITS (Sibiu International Theater Festival, 2015-2017) - and each year I have carefully selected the street shows I wanted to attend and that seemed to have better potential both storytelling wise and also as a purely aesthetic value... and the ability to ‘contaminate’ the resulting photographs with a mood which resembled a more believable fairy tale. Unfortunately, unlike children, we, adults, are less than willing to take part and make-believe the intended magical spirit of the street shows. I searched for the qualities that seem to bring those creatures, acrobats, fire jugglers, mirror people, giant birds, luminous horses, marching bands and Luminarium, to life.
Staging Photography and Concepts
During the long years of the Transience project, I began planning and staging photographs, in natural settings and also in the city streets. Such intervensions had the purpose of introducing the miraculous, the unseemly character into the mundane experience of the passer-by and also create images that radiate a feeling of the unreal. Angels were a great symbol for this. Later on, when in Venice, I discovered that the city was most beautiful in heavy fog and cloudy skies, away from the crowds. You need to get lost in order to begin to see.
I believe portraiture can deal with more than the standard of the real world characters and faces. I wanted to depict fantasy characters out of a personal world and give out the feeling of a surreal dream and to create images of different archetypes and strange supernatural beings, both benevolent and dark in their inner nature and thus bring forth things that do not exist in the real perceived world but are nevertheless being photographed in it. Also, because using this technique transforms the image into something akin to painting, one of the ideas was to turn ordinary mundane materials (clothes, props, masks) into fantastical objects made of light, such as the angel wings. A kind of alchimic permutation. The portraits from the series have masks, props (wings, other implements) and clothes made by me and my family and are staged in carefully picked natural spots or specific places to obtain different moods.
Photography has some major advantages for me: it lets me be the director of reality, just like in computer graphics, but in opposition to that, I can make my visions come true in images much faster, I can see the results as I release the shutter and not after hours/days of render tests (though preparation will take time in photographing too). Photography is now a major tool in expressing my feelings and sensing the world, I do not earn my living from it but it consumes most of my time, I always try to expand it, explore, experiment, reach for more than the static image in this digital age - thus, the visual poems.
Venice Carnival Magic
While at the Venice Carnival , all manner of fantastical characters were already before me and I had to dance in the crowd to be able to catch that moving impression and turn them into something more beautiful, at least to me, than their actual real aspect. The Venice Carnival of old was probably a more mysterious event, with masks and costumes sometimes lost in the streets all over the city - now it has lost some of that mood, because of tourism and everyone taking photos of all the costumes.
Most masks you can meet only in the very center or at specific spots. Photographing with ICM has altered the regular image and created a world more beautiful than in reality, which in a way, was my goal. The river of many people in the sunset had its own kind of beauty. Costumes needed the sun to glitter and leave light trails with the ICM technique. I worked for 11 days, carnival time, took over 10.000 images with ICM and had an incredible experience. It was really hard on my body and back because I had to run and make my way through the crowd to and fro, while moving my camera around like crazy - other photographers kept watching and trying to understand what exactly I was doing... and I was trying to hide all that as well... and so I discovered that Venice was most beautiful in heavy fog and cloudy skies. Also, for the canals to be turned into pastels, that was most desirable.
I think the most difficult shot from the Magic of Venice series was one of a very richly adorned blue costume mask, with a wizardly face and intricate clothing detail. But, in contrast with other masks who posed for photographers and people, this one did not stay for an instant, but only dashed off - probably a private shoot. It was extremely difficult to photograph with ICM - and I ran almost a mile around him, taking shots, catching my breath - he was spectacular ! In the end, acknowledging my race, his manager told him to pose for me for a few minutes - victory. and right then, in that small square where we had stopped - a young boy was playing a violin. it was indeed a splendid ending.
It was a Saturday aternoon, Carnival time. San Marco was full literally to the brim, near the edge of the Grand Canal. The sunlight was touching the hair of the people going to and fro. Searched and found several bird’s eye positions, then fought the never-ending crowds again... then one of the small bridges nearby got so crowded that police needed to keep people moving - still I have already caught the flow of people, some turning into ghosts and wisps, some seemed set in stone. I’ll always remember that river of people in the sunset...
Water and Fire Abstracts
Sometimes one can see fine textures and action painting light streaks in the depths of the water element, forms and lines as if painted by Jackson Pollock. I have attempted to catch those illusory abstract forms in the running waters of the river, but to make them more unreal and fantastic I have used the ICM technique and combined the movement of the photo camera its self, on a longer exposure, with the movement of the water flow.
I have long since pursued the photographing of water using the ICM technique, before the large project Transience was born. It gave me a window for a more abstract work and gave rise to technical difficulties because of the very powerful degree of light reflected by the water surface, to be photographed at long exposure. The resulting images are expressionist abstracts and structures with a world of their own. The fine mesh of the gold foil textures sometimes seem to wrap around a river rock, dark hole surrounded by light bent and deformed by micro turbulence.
Walking with fisherman's boots along the river to catch pockets of reflecting light is a wonderful, childish activity I would do any time for the joy of it. The sound of water is all the music I need…
Fire and water are two sides of the same, so I translated my efforts onto this element as well and began to see visions in the depths of the fire element, shapes and creatures as are to be found in the mid-summer white clouds. Out of the fire abstractions that have passed my eye, from the inspiration their radiating heat gave me, here are a few creatures that sprang to life, be they animal or antropomorphic. This is fire slowed down, in a way. I have attempted to catch those illusory forms, but to make them more unreal and fantastic I have again used the ICM technique and combined the movement of the photo camera its self, on a longer exposure, with the movement of fire burning. The resulting images are surreal abstracts and figures that belong to a world of flame.
A most special series, the Sparkle Portraits move more into the abstract realm of photography and into the ephemeral and fascinating aspect of light as a particle and a dynamic wave, represented in the series by the light streaks and sparkle filaments of the various sparkle personas. Light sculptures I like to call them…
I have found a way to catch light on a specially chosen material in such a way that it resembles light particles in motion. Thus, I combined two motions at the same time, the motion of the photo camera and that of a moving character.
The results range from very abstract to a kind of light figures, from which sometimes a face can be seen peering through the streaks of light. By using different motions and poses, I tried to give a dynamic feel to the images as well as freeze the movement in time. I thought of beings that were alien to this dimension of matter. The images seem to depict spirits made of light, as if transported to this plane of existence from another world, a world with less gravity and near to no solidity. They have no fixed body edges nor a certain form, rather, they flow through states.