During her Master years she focused on the “female gaze” approach and she graduated with her still ongoing Flower Sellers documentary focusing on the sensitive traits of masculinity and how toxic masculine patriarchal bravado can be detrimental for both women and men.
How and when did you get into photography?
To be honest I got into photography after my admission at the Photography section at university. I was always a creative person, the “the artist” of the group, but my background was really theoretical. All my classmates in high school were going to be doctors, it was just me who wanted to go the arts school, but not necessarily photography section. I was really into painting and drawing at that time.
I think this is why now I always compose my pictures like painter, I am not much of a spontaneous photographer. Finally, I chose the photography section a little pressured by questions like “how will you earn money” / “what job will you have after”, so photography just seemed more practical at that time, I guess. I struggled a lot during my first years to find my voice, saying a million times that I quit. Long story short, I remember a key moment that focused my attention. One of our teachers at a course was speaking about Robert Capa and his famous US troops. Omaha beach, France from 1944. He talked about how important is to take risks to go near the subject, to be there.
At that moment something clicked in my mind, I realized that I need to go out there and assume my position as an artist, not be afraid about failure, having the courage to expose myself, be vulnerable. Photography was the perfect medium for me to exceed my limits.
What influences your work? What inspires you?
I think my work is influenced a lot by painters and sometimes fashion designers. Color is a very important toll in my photographs. I like the approach of composing an image carefully in your head like a painter does and it’s much more exciting applying this in documentary photography as you never know what you will find and what your subjects will bring extra to the picture. I am also inspired by people around me who believe in what they do, and they keep doing it until they get where they want. I am lucky to have a couple friends like that and I am always grateful.
What is the role of the artist today?
I think the role of an artist is to make people put themselves questions not giving answers, creating a fantastical world where the viewers can enter through perceptual thought. An artist today should be aware of the world she/he is living in but also keep his integrity intact, not giving in to fleeting fashion trends.
Studio, on location or both?
Totally on location. I mean studio is great bringing your own props and setting everything up but on location there is this risky, adrenaline feeling that I find during my documentary roams. Sometimes is like doing bungee jumping not being sure about the safe rope. I mean you spend a lot of money and time (I work on analog film also), but in the end it’s up to your luck to take that picture you are dreaming of. I only know that when it happens, nothing compares to that feeling.
What makes you happy?
Regarding my work I am the happiest person when I go in the flower market and I find people willing to be in my photos. A great feeling was also when someone wrote me on Instagram: “your project made me see things differently”. It means a lot to me to deliver the message to the viewers. Speaking of non art related things that make me happy, I realized during the pandemic past year that basic, most simple pleasures are the best like just going out to the favorite restaurant with your friends. Even though I like the risky part of the documentary I compensate by having good old habits.
What are you working on now?
Right now, I am still working on my Flower Sellers project. This series takes part in one of the oldest historical spots in Bucharest important for the Romanian patrimony: Rahova Flower-Market. During the pandemic total lock-down last year the corrupt municipality took advantage to destroy the market and take the space partly when people’s attention was shifted to the covid restrictions. They destroyed solid shops making people come back after a couple of months and giving them just a plastic tent to stay under. So, there is a lot of gentrification and changing of scenery, also there are some racist Romanian views towards the flower sellers that need to be challenged.
Denise Lobont – www.deniselobont.com