Photojournalism: The Intimacy of Light with Ioana Moldovan

Rarely do you meet someone who’s so passionate about their work and how they can contribute to society, but is also able to transfer that feeling and inspire others. Such is the case of Ioana Moldovan, a Romanian photojournalist who through her lens is able capture the struggle and plight of those whose voices often remain unheard. Photojournalism goes beyond the mere manipulation of light, it is the intimate process where the photographer becomes a witness to the subject’s experience. Already published in numerous publications including The New York Times, Al Jazeera and LensCulture, Ioana continues to immerse her self in the stories of the individuals she photographs. We spoke with Ioana about her background and what drives her ongoing passion for the craft of photography. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your history and what inspired you to start shooting?

My first approach to photography was looking at photographs, thousands of them. I was fascinated by black&white film photos. In 2003 I bought my first semi-professional film camera (that I still own), but it was in 2007, while visiting the first former communist workers colony that I discovered my true passion, photojournalism and documentary photography. Ever since, my work has mainly focused on documenting social and human rights issues, including protest movements or conflict zones.

As a photojournalist, you convey a story through your photography… can you recall a particular story that stuck with you, and how deeply did it affect you?

What I love about photojournalism, what drew me to it, is constantly being among of people, getting to know their stories, being somehow part of their lives. Having people sharing their life experiences with me, it’s like living hundreds of lives in one. Every person has a story to tell and I am honored when people give me the privilege to tell it. There are so many stories that impressed and touched me over the years that I would not like to pinpoint one. I have learnt so much from people and telling their story might never be reward enough for what I receive. But it is still a duty I proudly take on.

How do you find the stories that you photograph, and are there certain social issues that you are drawn to?

Unless I have specific assignments, in my personal projects I try to tackle social injustice, to give voice to the less fortunate ones, to tell stories about those issues that we are not entitled to ignore or forget. In the last couple of years though, I have tried to document specific topics I believed to be important, but at the same time, showing a good example, something to aspire to. It is the case of my Country doctor and Invictus projects. From time to time, I enjoy telling different kind of stories, like documenting actors’ moments before going on stage or how students adorn their dormitory space to feel more at home.

What is your impression of the photography scene in Romania, specifically photojournalism?

I am a freelance photojournalist here, in Romania. Like many of my freelance colleagues, we have to live with the fact that most of the media outlets here don’t pay, not close to enough, for in-depth photojournalism stories. There are some that even expect to get your work for free. That’s why many of us try to find stories and sell them to the international media outlets. I’m not complaining, but merely stating a disappointing fact of the media industry in Romania. But I knew what I was getting into and, as regrettable as the situation is, it was never an important enough deterrent. I do other photography jobs as well to ensure my livelihood and to allow me to chase the stories I really want to tell. That does not mean I don’t wish and still hope for things to change for the better.

You have published a book and are very active on Instagram, do you have a preferred platform for sharing your work with others?

I can’t say that I have one. Of course, I would love to share more of my work on respected media platforms like The New York Times, The Washington Post or other ones I admire for the great work they constantly do. In terms of social media platforms, I use those suited for photography like Instagram and Facebook. When it comes to photo books, I believe they are the ones we leave behind. I am happy to had been able to transform the Invictus project into a photo book. Although, the photo book market in Romania, especially on photojournalistic topics, is still a pretty tiny one.

Interview by: Andy Fundeneanu

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