A painterly eye seems to be used in capturing the almost surreal, dreamlike images of Andrei Baciu. Vast landscapes covered in snow, stark monochromes of lone geometric images in open fields, soft lines and a seemingly constant mist hanging over all of his works, create literature and poetry in the photographs. Always contemplating, always contemplative it seems. Andrei’s photos take you through a journey of the mind, through the rolling hills and valleys of thought and comprehension, of wonder and understanding.
With such enigmatic works, Andrei remains to be a memorable name in the growing list of esteemed photographers making up Shoot the Frame’s winners. Thus it was only too tempting to pick his brain for the approach and philosophy which paved the way for such exquisite and unique works. Read on to learn the workings of the poet-photographer’s mind for valuable insight into what goes behind such beautiful photography.
Can you tell us a little something about yourself? Anything at all you’d like to share?
I am a 31-year old Romanian literature teacher who entered the fabulous realm of Photography eleven years ago and who can’t see himself ever leaving it. Besides this fundamental part of my life, I love the company of good people, reading, listening to music, playing football and a lot more. ☺
How did you get into photography? Was there a specific moment where you realised it’s something you wanted to pursue?
I can’t point out an exact moment, but I can definitely say that it all started when I bought a mobile phone. This was in 2004, when I was still a student and, since I wanted a new phone, I decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get one with a camera. Back then, few were the phones with integrated camera (and a lot more expensive), so I bought one with an attachable camera. It boasted a magnificent, impressive, supercalifragilistic 0.3 megapixels sensor ☺, but, seriously now, it was more than enough for yours truly to be introduced in the fantastic realm of writing with light, so to speak. Alongside playing with it, I started visiting photography sites, both Romanian and foreign, and becoming more and more charmed by how many things (i. e. emotions and ideas) the photographic frame was able to accommodate. All of them, if I may say so myself.
Two years later, I bought a compact camera, in 2006 – a bridge camera and it was only in 2009 that I finally got a DSLR. But, honestly, I reckon that this somewhat austere technical evolution made way to a lot more intense visual counterpart. Maybe if I had had an advanced camera from the very beginning, I might have been suffocated by the gear idol, so to call it. Therefore, I think this was the best path for me, which, if I were to start all over again, I would not hesitate to repeat identically. Or this is what I like to think, at least.
You have a very unique philosophy with “Photogralysm”. Can you tell us more about this philosophy and how it shapes your works?
Thank you, I am very glad you find it of interest. When I launched my site, I wanted to give it a title that would be expressive of my view on photography, authentic and, by this, original enough in order to remain in the viewer’s affective memory. My initial option was ”Photoemotions”, but I had to find something else because I had already used the term for the photoclub I founded with a few good friends of mine. So, after making a list of ideas that my title was supposed to convey, I ended up with “Photogralysm” as the best solution. Now, I even think it is better than what I would have wanted initially.
The word, obviously made up of ”photography” and ”lyri(ci)sm”, delineates my approach on photography as a medium which I use not to simply represent the empirical world, but to express the poetry, the ineffable that permeates it as delicately, as it does firmly. The existence is made up of what is perceivable through the eyes of the flesh and the other realm, out of which the sensorial one is born. As Minor White once said, I try to photograph things not only for what they are, but for what else they are.
So, just as poetry does, the goal of my photography is to use the denotative, the perceivable, not as an end in itself, but as a means, as a vehicle to transcend the palpable in order to reveal the Unseen. It is no coincidence what the philosopher Roger Scruton wrote recently, namely that the experience of beauty (both artistic and non-artistic) is the closest to the religious experience. For, just as so many wise people before us understood, great and real art is just like a (Jacob’s) ladder, forever longing for God. This is precisely why my short ”About” text on my site contains a reference to the Gospel of John.
How did your photographic philosophy form? What inspired it, and what led to its conception? It came to being organically, as a normal extension of my general outlook on life. My philological formation has also had a decisive part in this. And it will, clearly, always have.
Your winning photo on Shoot the Frame features a black and a white horse grazing with a stark, snowy background. Can you tell us how it came to be? What is the story behind this photo?
I took the photo in the winter of 2012, exactly on Christmas Eve.
Two days before, on an utterly freezing cold, I took my car to the car wash and, afterwards, although it was getting dark, I felt like driving a few kilometres, around some places nearby which I was deeply fond of. And there they were, two horses, a white and a dark one, grazing on the snow covered plain. I had been photographing horses, well, ever since I started photographing anything else, but I had never encountered such a scene. I took, within an hour, some two hundred photos of the horses and although some of them seemed quite interesting upon viewing at home, I still had the feeling there was more to the scene than what I had captured.
So, on Christmas Eve, I returned. To my huge joy, they were, incredibly, still there. As I always do, I tried to find a perfect relation between all the elements in the frame. In this particular case, the challenge was doubled by the fact that I had not one, but two continuously moving subjects, not to mention their opposite colours. At a certain point, as I was lying down on my belly and photographing as the horses kept changing their positions, I started thinking how great it would have been if they had somehow, magically, completely synchronised. And it would seem they did, didn’t they? (I had never thought I had done that many good deeds that year. …let this remain between us, I actually didn’t.)
A reason, if I might add, why I think this photograph succeeds as an artistic message is exactly this synchronisation, which, as I was saying above, by its immediate visually pleasing effect, conveys, be it at an intuitive level, a higher meaning. That is, the sense of harmony and order, which is not to be taken as a mechanical and arbitrary set of blind rules forced upon us, depriving us from our freedom, but the very frame in the lack of which there would be no freedom at all, but only chaos.
Furthermore, what else is order than the lack of… the disorder of things, ideas or emotions? If they are in this state, we evidently need energy for ordering them. What order does is simply allowing you to use all your resources for something that really deserves this. For Love. ☺
This is another proof that the great Romanian thinker and painter Horia Bernea, whom I quote on my site, was absolutely right. The world is indeed ”good from the viewpoint of its purpose, beautiful as making, complex from the perspective of its existence and spiritual through its very materiality”.
All your photos have an ethereal, almost surrealistic atmosphere. Is this something you deliberately create with your photos?
It all starts from the premises I outlined above, I guess, all the more we interpret the term ”surrealism” not culturally, but strictly etymologically – ”above (empirical) reality”. All I ever do is to simply try to be consistent with what I am, see and feel.
What is your photographic process? Do you set out to shoot with specific ideas of what you want, or do you just go with the flow and see what pops up?
When I go out shooting, I have indeed a certain type of expectations, depending on the specific place where I will be taking photographs. Yet, these expectations are pretty relaxed, so that I could be able to adapt to unanticipated opportunities.
In time, I have developed a particular set of correlations (both thematic and stylistic) between what it is in front of the lens, what I feel about this and the photographic artistic interpretation of the two. These correlations suit me more than well for the time being, but maybe, at a certain point in the future I will add some new ones to them. Just like the song says, I don’t wanna miss a thing from what Photography has to offer, since it has the phenomenal ability to make us understand/feel so much about life. (I am sorry for what might be taken as an excessive use of superlatives and uppercase words. I strongly consider that this is not a sign of superficial, transient enthusiasm, but, quite on the contrary, simply an act of calling things by their true name, after a profound, serious, rational, painfully lucid examination of both interior and exterior reality.)
How do you conceptualise your photo essays?
My photo essays have more of a post factum birth, rather than a programmed one. I have noticed that the first step in creating them is, more often than not, involuntary. I suddenly find myself in the trance of photographing a certain place, area or subject. It is only after the moment I realise this that I start thinking of putting together a project.
Which of your photo essays is your favourite and why?
Maybe my favourites are the ones I am currently working on. On the other hand, I pour the same amount of passion, energy and soul in every one of them, so I couldn’t say there is one that I love more than the rest. Each has its own distinct features, that make it unique for me and, I hope, for the viewers too.
Other than that, Granny’s Place, a project that presents the house where my great grandmother lived, does hold a particular place in my heart, because it represents a piece of history of my own family. To this, I add the fact that, unfortunately, being so old and basically unpractical to repair, the buildings will be eventually demolished. They have already started crumbling by themselves.
Can you tell us how winning Shoot the Frame has affected you positively?
Winning ”Shoot the Frame” has affected me only positively, let’s get this straight. Well, besides the obvious bragging rights, receiving the first prize of such an important international competition brought me a lot of joy and the thought that I had all the good reasons to continue taking – or, better put, making – photographs, with the same sense of passion and amazement at the sense and coherence God put in the world we live in.
Any last words?
Thank you so much for the opportunity of this interview. The questions were very interesting and they put me to work, in the best sense of the phrase, and I sincerely hope that our dialogue will prove to be useful for at least someone out there. As for everyone reading this, all I can say is ”enjoy photography and keep on… Shooting the Frame!” ☺
Interview by Julia Escano – Shoot The Frame
Photographer – Andrei Baciu: www.andreibaciu.ro