Little Box conversation 


Diana Maria

 "I don't know if any of the pictures I took, or I will take has or will have the power to subdue the beholder, but this is what I strive for. Just one such picture, I don't even dare to hope for more, that would be a big achievement."

First of all Diana, please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Diana Maria, and I live in Bucharest, Romania. All of my life I was in love with painting, but unfortunately I lack any talent for drawing. And so, the moment I discovered that the internet is full of wondrous photos, I was so fascinated by this form of artistic expression, so similar to painting, that I started collecting images for my own delight. Over a period of one year I must have looked at thousands and thousands of photos. Back then I didn't have my own camera.

However, during a one week long trip to Belgium, I borrowed a small camera to take pictures, as a tourist. To my surprise I discovered that taking pictures changed the way I was seeing the world around me. A chair was no longer just a chair: it was transforming in subtle ways, as I was looking at it from different angles and distances; suddenly, the light too became an instrument for modelling it. And so I knew that watching thousands of photos awoke in me the desire but also the ability to express myself by using a camera.

Thirteen years have passed since, a period used to understand myself better. I grew, and I rediscovered the joy of observing everything around me with ever growing curiosity and with the desire to search for beauty in the most common, or even apparently unappealing objects or places.

My need to capture in pictures the mood of the moment or the feelings I had while looking at pieces of my world, and the desire to share them with others grew so much that it became obvious I can no longer live without photography.   

Your work is a mix of candid and posed work. Can you tell us your opinion of candid versus posed, and do you have a preference for one or the other?

What matters to me is the picture in itself. My aim is to take a good picture, one that will not bore the beholder, one that intrigues, irritates, creates joy... My goal is to provoke any reaction but boredom. I think that a good picture is a picture that makes you want to watch it for more than three seconds, and a really good picture is one that lingers in your mind, one that you keep remembering and never get tired of looking at. I don't know if any of the pictures I took, or I will take has or will have the power to subdue the beholder, but this is what I strive for. Just one such picture, I don't even dare to hope for more, that would be a big achievement.

Therefore, for me is it is not important whether a picture is candid or posed. In the end, what matters is the emotional response of the person who is looking at it.

Related to the above question, your images seem to be a mix of documentary and street work.  Do you have a preference for one or the other? Do you like to experiment with other genres? 

I find it very difficult to place myself in one genre or the other, and I don't really want to do that, as I feel that would limit my work. I even take pictures of landscapes, whenever I feel like doing that, or if I discover a certain poetry in a particular scene, but I don't think that makes me a landscape photographer. Some people consider that I am a street photographer, while others see me differently. I am just expressing what I feel, without imposing any boundaries to my work by settling for a certain genre. So no, I don't have any preferences. What I know is that I will never do studio or product photography, nor wild life photography. The first two surpass my technical abilities, and I lack the patience required for wild life photography.

Do you have a preference for colour photography or black and white photography and why? Do you think a photograph needs to be black and white to be timeless? What are your thoughts on this?

It all depends upon my inner feelings, in different periods of my personal life, and upon my experiences and evolution as an artist. Initially I was captivated by black and white photography, therefore most of my pictures were edited to be black and white.Then, I fell in love with Harry Gruyaert's, Alex Webb's and David Alan Harvey's colour photography, so I wanted to work with colours myself.

In the end, the pictures are taken in colour, and the decision to leave it that way or turn it into black and white comes during editing. I think it's more difficult to work with colour photography, because you have to carefully balance colours in order not to end up with a chromatic mess.

At this time, I'm working with colour photography, but if during editing I consider that by turning it black and white I will increase its visual impact and quality, I will turn it to black and white. These are the considerations that help me decide if a picture stays colour or I'll turn it black and white.

I don't believe that in order to remain timeless a picture must be black and white. I am certain that the photos made by those mentioned above will stay timeless. The ways they composed the frames and balanced the colours, created such powerful visuals that most of their pictures will withstand the passing of time, just as the best of the black and white pictures will.  

Do you have any favourite situations or subjects you like to photograph?

When I'm out, taking pictures, my eyes are drawn to a certain background, to one or more persons. When I find a suitable background, I just stand there, waiting for interesting characters to enter the “scene”, people that will amplify the visual impact of the frame.

When I find myself in a crowded urban area and my sight is drawn to someone's look, I'll try to snap a photo. And when it is possible, I will try to talk to that person, convince her or him to pose for me. If he or she agrees, I will search for the best background in order to take that picture.

My thought is that both the subject and the background should be expressive so that the visual impact created by their juxtaposition will be as powerful as possible.Sometimes this works, sometime it doesn't.

Regarding subjects and situations I am pretty flexible. I like urban locations, and in this situation one could say that I'm doing street or candid photography, but I also like being in the countryside or other such places, where I can interact with people.

These different interactions have a lot of charm. The person in front of the camera is no longer a stranger. He or she acquires an identity and I like to see how they change from being a distrustful, disgruntled stranger into someone who feels comfortable and manages to express themselves.

I don't know if I prefer certain subjects. In my pictures you can see many children, but this is because they are much more open and natural. I also use animals in many frames that I am composing, because they bring a surplus of expressiveness. I like to capture emotions.

Tell us a little about your photographic ‘style’ and what you want to convey to the viewer through your style?

I aim at creating a vibrant photo which displays different atmospheres, which surprises with the supernatural and creates mystery. I pay attention to composition, details, emotions rendered by colour, light, shapes and characters. 

Do you have any projects you are currently working on and if so, can you tell us a little about them?

After becoming a mother, almost two years ago, I kind of gave up my camera. All my personal resources are invested in my child, a little boy who has become my main focus. Ever since, I have had only a small number of short photographic sessions.In fact, most of the pictures I took in all this time, are done with my mobile phone, during my daily commute to work. But my goal for this year is to take as many photos as I can. In the longterm, I anxiously await the moment when I will be accompanied by my child, also with his own camera, so I will be able to awaken in him the passion for photography.

But no, at the moment, I have no particular photographic project.

What equipment do you use and do you have a favourite focal length?

For 10 years I used a Nikon 90, 18-55 mm and, although its performances were limited in weak light, I followed the idea that you must do all you can with the camera you have. But three years ago I had the opportunity to change my camera, so now I use an Olympus E-M1 Mark II, 12-40mm. It is a very good camera, but I have had some difficulties with the very complex user menu, and also I am not very skilled when it comes to technical matters. 

I like wide frames, but I can also like to play with the focal length, so I prefer a camera lens with a zoom of 55mm maximum.   

What do you think are the most important qualities or elements of a memorable photo?

The genius of the photographer and their ability to combine and balance all the elements of a frame.

Is there a particular photographer who has influenced your work or the way you see?

The first photographer I fell in love with was Koudelka, then Nikos Economopoulos. Afterwards I discovered the masters of colour photography, who for me are: Harry Gruyaert, Alex Webb and David AlanHarvey. I think I learned the most from them and they are the ones that actually trained me in both black and white and colour photography, in street, candid and posed photography.