March 8, 2017Comments are off for this post.

Interview with photojournalist Mircea Reștea

Mircea Reștea is a contributing photographer for Documentaria, a project created to showcase, through documentary photography, written stories and infographics, fragments of reality of Romanian life. Mircea has been a photojournalist for seventeen years and starting with 2013 he’s been working as a freelancer.

© Mircea Reștea

The main focus of the Elections 2014, a project created by the team of Decât o Revistă (Just a Magazine), was to document the presidential election campaign in Romania. What did you think of this initiative in relation to the Romanian journalistic landscape?

DOR’s role was decisive: they didn’t just funded us, they also build the online platform where we’ve published the photographs. In addition, they offered us the opportunity to work with a team of exceptional reporters. I don’t think I’ve seen something like this in Romania before.

The event was covered by four photographers: you, Ioana Moldovan, Alexandra Dincă and Andrei Pungovschi. Tell me about your work process - how did you organize, communicate and edit the photographs?

Each of us followed a candidate and the photographs got published as we had them. Andrei edited as well but we all tried to take part in the editing process. This was one of the things I mostly enjoyed about this project, I found it very interesting to see how everyone worked. Then the editing itself it’s a very instructive process, especially when we all managed to meet.

© Mircea Reștea

How was it for you to document the campaign of Klaus Iohannis? How much access did you have and how was the interaction between the two of you?

It was one of the most interesting projects I’ve had so far. My enthusiasm was even bigger because it was the first time when I could photograph politics without being afraid the images will be used differently than previously decided. Unfortunately, the access to the candidate was very limited. Except a couple of visits to some factories I’ve photographed public events.

For this reason I think this part ( the candidate and everything that’s related to campaign backstage) is a failure. But things were better regarding my other objective: show a portrait of his supporters.

© Mircea Reștea

How was the interaction between the candidate and the public?

This took place generally in mass meetings, specifically during the “crowd bathings” which started and ended the meetings. It mostly meant hand shaking and photographs. At the launch of the candidate’s book, there was a long session of book signing and small jokes with the public.

© Mircea Reștea

You have many years of photography behind you. Tell me about your experience and the things you’ve learnt from your previous projects.

I can’t tell if 17 years are a lot or not. What I find important is that I enjoy doing what I do and I try to learn continuously from others and from my own failures, which are more than a few. One thing I’ve learnt is that sometimes it’s good to give up - publishing a photograph, even if you really like it, a subject or even a project. Lately I’ve been trying to work only at those projects where I can get the access I want and this is because not having enough access is the cause of most of my giving up.

What is documentary photography to you and how do you see it developing?

I don’t know how it will evolve but I’m glad I can still do it because for me, photographing is a way of being. I’m also pleased to see we have good photographers who manage to do high quality documentary photography.  

Want to see more of Mircea’s photographs and projects? Visit his portfolio.

Note: This interview was first published on Documentaria.

 

February 22, 2017Comments are off for this post.

Ciprian Hord – Out of the dark

Ciprian, 37, started photographing at 29. Because he discovered late what he really wanted to do, he says now he has to work hard to make up for the lost time.

For him documentary photography means to depict reality through simple, powerful and straightforward images, in order to show as much as possible the truth of a scene or a story. And in order to show the essence of things you need time. That’s why many projects in this field require a lot of time, even years to complete. I’ve spoken to him on behalf of Documentaria about one of his ongoing projects and his thoughts on the current state of documentary photography.

Aurel, a blind teacher, relaxes and listens to a football match. Drobeta-Turnu Severin, Romania, 2016.

Out of the dark is a project about the life of people with visual impairments. How did you end up working on it?

I haven’t been photographing in a while and I started this project to get out of a bad, morass period I’ve gotten into. I don’t remember how the idea came to me, all I know is I needed a subject. Preferably one that would interest someone else, not just me. Maybe it was also an unconscious drive that pushed me towards people who cannot see: visual communication is essential to me and I can’t imagine how I could live without it.

What is the significance of the title of your project?

A while ago I applied with these photographs to a grant offered by a US foundation and it was then when I first named it Out of the dark. I’ve been searching for an equivalent in Romanian since then. I want the lives of these people to get out of “the dark” and for us see. We who are often more blind than they are, to see how they live, how they work, how they have fun and how they love. We pass them by on the street, see them with their white stick and our hearts melt for a second, but we soon forget. I want to know more about them and show others as well.

And I can tell a little story here, one that could be funny if it wasn’t sad. I knew that Adrian, a person who is visually impaired, will attend a concert at the Arad Philharmonic accompanied for the first time by a service dog he had just received. I called the Director of the Philharmonic, told him about it and asked for permission to take some photographs during the concert. His reaction was: “Why bother taking photographs, they’re blind anyway, they won’t be able to see them”. I don’t think I need more to prove myself that what I do has a purpose.

Adrian at the concert, accompanied by his service dog, Max. Arad, Romania, 2014.

What have you learnt working on this project and what message do you want to convey through it?

I’ve learnt that we can do almost anything if we work hard and don’t give up easily.

I don’t intend to be a moralist, but I sincerely believe that if we knew how these people live, we’d complain less about small salaries, lack of parking spots and other similar problems. Maybe we’d even manage to rearrange our priorities.  

Through these photographs I want to show that people with visual impairments are just like us, the difference being that they’re forced to put out more effort than someone who’s able to see. That’s why amongst them you’ll find strong people, endowed with certain qualities and skills which often exceed those of people who can see. Of course, not all of them manage to adapt perfectly to this disability and that’s precisely why we need to understand them better and help them overcome some difficulties.

Every morning, Ovidiu takes his son to the kindergarten. Arad, Romania, 2014.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions regarding people who are visually impaired?

The biggest misconception I identified is the idea they are helpless, that we need to pity them. The result is an overly protective and completely unhelpful behaviour. Furthermore, this misconception is also present in the manner in which state institutions relate to these people. It’s not enough to give them a disability allowance, an allowance for accompanying and other gratuities. Most of them would take a greater advantage if they had personal and professional development opportunities, to help them become financially independent.

Raducu Trailescu is the only blind priest in Romania. Drobeta Turnu-Severin, Romania, July 2016. © Ciprian Hord

What are the biggest difficulties blind people face?

There are plenty: there’s a lack of accessibility for blind people in pedestrian traffic (acoustic traffic lights, tactile warnings) in public transportation, in public institutions, in stores. There’s a lack of online optimal accessibility, insufficient funds for assistance dogs and other supporting materials. But the biggest problem is having an inadequate training system for the blind. Thus, they can’t develop skills and abilities that are looked for in the work field. Not all of them must get a job in the “Brushes and brooms” department just like before 1989, and now not even those jobs exist anymore. Not having a job and an income can lead to restrictions of their social activity and to social isolation. I believe these matters should be a priority for those in charge with making the laws in this country.

Tell me about one of your favorite photographs in this project.
There’s one photograph I like, with Aurel and Florin, splashing around in the pool. The people from the visually impaired association in Arad organized a getaway at the thermal pool in Dorobanți. I started to picture horror scenarios right from the bus. I was the only one able to swim and see and my lifeguard skills are not that great. But to my joy, they were changing water in the pools that day and the water level would only reach the knees. Nonetheless, this didn’t stop my friends to have a lot of fun there and I could get into the water with my camera and photograph from the same level. I imagine we gave quite an amusing show - two grown men splashing in the water and a third one, in his underwear, carrying a big camera and photographing them.

Aurel and Florin having fun in the pool. Both of them are blind. Dorobanți, Romania, 2015.

What impact did your photographs have after publishing them?

The project is not finished, I still have a lot of work to do and I’m not exactly happy with the results so far. Some of the photographs were published here and there. The feedback was very positive, although I don’t know if these appreciations managed to change something regarding people’s attitudes towards the people who are blind. If this didn’t happen it’s only my fault and it means I need to work more and make better pictures.

Why did I chose photography? I'm going to paraphrase Garry Winogrand and tell you that I have a burning desire to see what the world looks like photographed by me. I'm incurably curious.

What do you think is the role of documentary photography now, when we have instant access to information?

This is a favorable moment for documentary photography because it can distance itself from the breaking-news part. Everyone can easily make live videos, take photographs with their phones and upload them instantly on social media platforms or news websites. Documentary photography can’t and it shouldn’t compete with this phenomenon, this is not its purpose. There are a lot of people willing to know stories which are not presented in the social media, interesting stories, photographed with passion and dedication.

Florin taking a photograph with his phone. Orșova, România, 2016.

Is documentary photography a niche or can it be turned into a sellable and accessible product for the general public?

This is a really hard question. It can be a dream job if you wouldn’t be forced to live with insecurity and be on a continuous race after funding sources for the projects you're working on. People in Romania are not ready yet to pay for a premium media product. Yet. Nonetheless, I’m sure that things will start to change. But the support for documentary photography is an international issue. We are forced to look for alternative funding, chase scholarships, collaborate with NGOs, private companies, photograph weddings and baptisms to support our documentary projects. But despite the harsh conditions, Romania has very good photographers who work on beautiful and important projects. And even if he doesn't sees himself as a documentary photographer, I have to mention Vadim Ghirda who just got a prize at the Word Press Photo. And that’s a thing not many can do. So we do have photographers.


How important do you think visual culture is for the general public. Is visual education still present in Romania and who do you think should teach it?

If the photographs are powerful they will have an impact even for people who don’t have a so-called visual culture. What bothers me though is the lack of visual culture on the side of people who are in charge with the visual aspect of various publications in our country. Competent photo editors have disappeared from the offices because there are no more money for such things. Shame. I believe the taste of the broader audience forms through the product you deliver not the other way around. It’s not nice to blame it on the public who only asks for sensational and quantity.

Follow Ciprian's work on his website or on his Instagram account.