We spoke to photographer PATRICIA TODORAN about the human-environment relationship in her work, her self portraits, and the art scene of Cluj-Napoca (Romania), where she lives at.
MAZIPOS – Why don’t you start telling us how did you started on Photography?
PATRICIA TODORAN – My first interaction with photography was when, as a child, I was watching my grandfather, who worked as a radiologist, in the darkroom developing large X-ray films. Then, my father showed me the tricks of working with a film camera and I learned how to develop my own photos. Aware of the power of the image, I quickly became interested in expressing my thoughts through direct and efficient visual tools. I pursued my passion in fine arts at the University of Arts and Design Cluj-Napoca, where, in 2010, I have been awarded my MA.
M – Then, do you work with film or digital?
PT – Even if my original interests are in traditional photographic processes, presently, I work on digital and film as well. For me digital or traditional photography are just another way the perspectival system is implemented. The camera is an intermediate that enables the visual works, interweaving subjectivity, remembrance, creativity, curiosity and technical abilities. The choice of the medium comes in relation to the concept that needs to be represented.
M – Your photography often shows objects/spaces, a presence of someone it is now absent. How do you get to this melancholic state of mind?
PT – I have always been interested in the human-environment relationship and the uncanny feeling of familiarity a place can have when it is empty. There is the belief that somebody or something was there, in that space, at a certain time, and left its trace.
M – That research of the environment is also marked by a contrasting wish to explore yourself as a subject. Tell us about your self portraits and what’s behind them.
PT – The self portraits came as a natural way to trying to know the environment, the others and myself. As you observed, this is a different attitude, but to have an environment the human presence is needed. I found it suitable to expose myself in order to best express the concepts. One of the first approaches was digitally enhanced images (Re-portrait) in order to express the idea of fragmentation, the search of coherence by rejecting the incoherence of the not yet formed self. I took advantage of photography’s ability as a medium to create an illusion, to ”prick” as Roland Barthes would say. I further exploited the idea of masks (Masque/Contre-masque) that I made and applied on the face suggesting a positive-negative, superhero-villain character, a two-in-one effect. The problems highlighted are the effect of consumerism, media, and the depersonalization. I somehow mask in order to unmask and it is a constant preoccupation.
M – As many artists do, you also work as a commercial photographer. Tell us how do you manage to remain creative by dealing with someone else’s ideas.
PT – For a long time I looked at commercial photography as a totally different from art photography. I am not saying it is the same thing, but they are both made for the people. I take it as an opportunity to see how the others perceive the world around them and to be in touch with a lot of diverse ideas. Because each client is unique I have to adapt and find solutions to suit their needs. These interactions also helped me to learn how to communicate better with my subjects and find the best ways to represent the concepts.
M – How do you find the art scene at Cluj-Napoca, where you live at?
PT – During the last years I feel there is a great urge to work and exhibit here. Cluj has a lot of great artists and the young ones seem more and more devoted to their work. The art scene has been gaining ground and is more visible internationally. However, even if there are more exhibitions than before, there are only a few galleries that showcase international artists. There is a great need of artist talks, conferences, and possibilities to interact with these artists.
M – What are you currently working on?
PT – I am currently working on a series called ”Stories embodied on body”, where I look into the idea of how our bodies hold the memory of our experiences. It is a straight up, honest way to show what the sitters lived, what they remember and how they feel about the experience. The traces on our bodies are embodiments of an experience and are part of the personal remembrance, the result of our living in the world, of our interaction with the others and the environment. In order to get to know these stories one needs to get close enough, maintain the interest and stay involved in the negotiation of the individual memory as the subject reveals itself. Furthermore, the sitter is encouraged to pose or to avoid a pose (though this is a kind of pose in itself) in a context chosen to support the lived experience.