About me for magazine, USA

1)Tell me about yourself and the place you live in.

My name is Natalia Ciobanu. I was born on January 18th, 1989, I am 22 years old. I live in a small country of Moldova. There you can find many places worth visiting. To my mind, the most interesting one is the Old Orchay. It is an archeological complex, situated in 60 kilometers to the North-East of Kishinev, the capital of Moldova. The Old Orchay is an open-air museum, famous for its monasteries built in the rocks. This area was perfect for monkhood in early Christian society. It was isolated from the outer world. These caves, possibly carved by prehistoric tribes of that area, might have already existed when the Christians arrived at this place. The main sightseeing places of Moldova also include the Krikovo and Milestii Mici wine cellars as well as Moldova’s medieval monasteries. Speaking of my country’s culture one can say with certainty that its development is closely connected with its history. The Romans also exerted considerable influence on Moldova. And finally, this country is famous for its wine-making. The collection of Moldavian wines called «Mileştii Mici», which includes 1.5 million bottles, is one of the biggest in Europe, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Its cellars stretched over a territory of 200 kilometers, of which only 50 are in use today. I love my country for its hospitable and cordial people, for wonderful nature which can be praised eternally.

I live in Kishinev. Our family is big, I have a brother and a sister. Being the elder child in my family, I have been a very active since childhood, got good marks at school and also had time to visit different additional courses and hobby groups. I got trained in biathlon, clothes design, dancing and different kinds of sports and even took vocal lessons. I was always in search of myself, trying to develop myself spiritually and physically. One of the principal hobbies of my childhood was reading. Having read all the books in my house twice, I virtually settled in the nearest library – and I read all the books there. There was also a period when I was very fond of psychology and philosophy – all this helps me to live and to photograph today. I think the principal traits of my character are persistence and purposefulness, as well as belief in the best things that exist in the world. Also, I always try to develop myself in everything, for, in my opinion, every stop is the waste of one’s life. I love people and communication, but despite of this I am very careful in choosing friends and people who surround me, who become close to me. I try to be smiling, to radiate happiness and positive energy, because I am sure that everything one does returns to him, doubled. Both good and bad.

2)How did you get into photography and how has your work transformed since?

I didn’t mention above that drawing was the greatest love of my life. My parents didn’t sign me up to the art school, that’s why I treated every little pencil I had with love and care. Every sheet of my copy-books was filled with drawings. Many people didn’t believe that I drew it all myself, they thought I was cheating and used carbon paper. Being a child, I was very hurt by their words, but now I recall these times with a smile on my face. Even today I can say with certainty that I drew very well and if I hadn’t stopped developing myself in this direction, I would achieve something. I always drew nature, buildings and things like that, but more often I liked to dream something up, and one could find 2, 3 and sometimes even 4 images in my drawings if observing them closely. Some said the themes of my drawings were very difficult for a child, but that even pleased me. I always regretted only one thing – I couldn’t learn to draw people. Besides, when I was 13, I was bored with watercolour and my parents couldn’t afford to buy me professional paints, paper and brushes. I began to draw everything with a pencil, my pictures got more voluminal and deep. But people were still caricatures in my copy-books.

Approximately in a year, a photo camera entered into my life and I began to take photos of people. It wasn’t mine and I dreamed of having my own. Later, my grandmother together with my parents gave me my first camera as a gift. It was a simple camera – Canon Power Shot A540 – and I began to shoot very actively. I can say with certainty that equipment is important for a photographer, but not principal. Shooting with that camera I won many competitions among professional photographers. I understood that it is an idea which is important for a good shot, more important that sharpness and other technical characteristics. In 2009 I bought Canon Rebel XTi (400d) camera which became my devoted friend and assistant, I loved this camera very much. People often asked me what equipment I had and got very surprised when they saw my camera was technically worse than theirs but nevertheless I had better shots. I am ready to repeat it continually – it is the idea, the idea and thee hands of a photographer which count in the art of photography. This year, 2011, I changed the camera to Canon 60D with a single purpose – the desire to direct videos. I think it might be another step of my development.

I don’t know how my shots changed since 2009, only the audience can judge this. I am trying to improve my knowledge every day, not to stop, to develop, to learn something new, to find new things. Today I read and watch a lot of materials not only on photography, but on work with models as well, they are the important part of a photograph. I must know how they should act in front of the camera in order to help them. I also seek to achieve maximal warmth, life and air in my photographs.

3)Tell me about your photoshoot process. (picking models, concepts, location, clothing, editing etc..)

As a rule, models choose me. They are my customers. I am very grateful to life that these people are always wonderful, kind and responsive, ready to work at a good photograph. Unpleasant situations happen very rarely, but they are often made up by other inspiring people. However, there are people that appear in my photos very often and they are my friends. I think that all these people – no matter if they are friends or not – should be friends with a photographer to some extent. Trust and confidence are important. For both sides. Only in this case we will get a really good, cordial and sincere shot. Only in this case a photographer and a model will be greatly satisfied with the process of the photoshoot. I wouldn’t like to shoot only for money, it is terrible. That would mean I am selling my talent in order to earn for living and, subsequently, I would betray myself. For this reason, I try not to shoot projects uninteresting for me and people, whose views are different from mine. The thing is, that a model and a photographer should become pals, even if only for a day, or friends – that would be ideal.

I can’t say that I always have a clear image of the result of the photoshoot. I have already passed this step and I am clearly sure that if I come to the shoot with an image in my mind, its result will certainly be worse than the one which is spontaneous, and it upsets me a little. At present, I go to the photoshoot with a concept, an aim to have a good time and to get good shots. The thing is to gather enough details necessary for the shoot, to find a suitable place and the muse will always appear in the right place and in the right time. It goes without saying that all elements of any shoot – a model, clother and the place –are selected before it, they are thought over carefully. I try to shoot properly during the shoot itself, to gather everything necessary in the shot, or, on the contrary, to exclude unnecessary elements from it. The more the shot is planned before the shutter is released, the better the result is. Why correct anything afterwards, in Photoshop, if you can do it all during the shoot.

After the shoot I return home and don’t set to work with the photographs for several days, in order to have an unbiased and very critical look at them during the selection of the best shots. I edit them not because it is obligatory, but when I have the mood and wish to do it. I am sure that eventually the photograph diffuses the energy you have put into it and the spectator will eventually feel the exact mood of it, good or bad.

4)Since you’ve been doing your photography, what has been your favourite memory of it thus far?

I can’t say there is a single, very bright memory. Someone said: “We might not remember what this or that person said when we met him, but we will always remember how we felt by his side”. The same with me, I have feelings, smiles, the scent of spring flowers or the warmth of the sun, the brightness of autumn leaves or the freeze of the winter air. I remember every photoshoot, I love each of them and appreciate it as an important memory of my life.

However I can tell about the exploits performed by the girls, who have done a lot for my photograph. For instance, my friend lied on the frozen sea shore in a light summer dress when it was -20°C outside. Another girl came to the shoot with 5 big bags filled with clothes, which was a heavy load for such a fragile girl. A lot of times, people woke up very early and drove very-very far for the photoshoot. This list is never-ending. I am very grateful to all these people, who believe in me, in everything I do, that they help me. I am very grateful to have such friends and models. I value these relationships.

5)What would your dream shoot be?

I think that must be an emotional and lively shoot, where everybody finds sincerity and frankness, the shoot that will reveal the model and me to the greatest extent. The photographs from this shoot will be kept in the model’s album, his great grandsons will admire them, and not only they, perhaps…This shoot must express me, my views, everything I want to leave after me.

6)Where is some place you would love to travel to and why?

My photographic aim now is traveling. I want to travel all around the world, visit all the possible places, to meet different people with different religions, culture and views, to depict them as sincerely and honestly as possible and to keep it all in my shots. I want to show the world around, the cities where these people live, the environment that surrounds them. Certainly, I should show the world as I see it together with the heroes of my photographs. Perhaps, from an outsider’s viewpoint my first travel photos don’t seem great achievements. Some might say that my trips to Lvov or Kiev are not real traveling and big merit, but for me they truly are. The reason is simple: I have a big family, there are 3 children in it, and it is impossible to let each of them travel around the world. That’s why slowly, but sequentially I try to achieve my goal myself. My parents brought me up and put their best in me – and with all this I can lead my life myself, towards my desires. It is more interesting for me to achieve everything myself, and not just buy a camera or a voucher to paradise with someone else’s money. I can say with certainty that at the moment I have travelled around all Moldova, I have visited some part of Ukraine and Romania with my boyfriend. I am only 22 and I am proud of myself and I’m not trying to conceal it as I do everything myself. I hope that in five years the list of visited countries will increase a lot, it all depends on time, zeal and aspiration. I can also say with certainty that I have all of these components.

But I will tell you a secret, at present it is India that I see in my dreams. I like the inhabitants of this country, their religion and culture. It is one of my goals, like Africa. And if I will eventually be able to help the people living there, I will be happy.

7)Other than photography, what do you enjoy doing?

Other than photography, there are studies in my life. I study marketology, and I really like this field. I spend all my free time traveling round Moldova or staying with the people I love – my family and boyfriend. And still when in public transport, I look through photo magazines, books, look at the people around me and watch them… in search of inspiration.

8)Who/what inspires you?

Practically always it happens like this “a person – eyes – thoughts – the birth of an idea”. Yes, it is all trite. People get acquainted with me, I get acquainted with them. Sometimes 1 or 2 shots are enough to become a solid and firm ground for future cooperation, sometimes they are not. When there are not enough photographs we begin communicating actively, trying to get to know each other, to feel each other. And then we understand whether our cooperation will be fruitful or not. Very rarely, but even all this is not enough to start a creative process, and then we go out in the evenings, listen to the music, smile and look at each other.

Yes, it is a person, in all his beauty, complicated appearance becomes the source of inspiration for me. Every person, there are no exclusions. There is no fear of being mistaken, there is a fear of not to disclose him during the shoot.

After the idea is born we begin to prepare – sometimes it takes a week, sometimes two. It is very important to prepare for the shoot. Because if you understand that the person is other than you have expected, you will surely be able to turn everything into one mood, to change everything. There are often fantastic images in my mind, that drive me crazy, so desired they are for me. However, nearly in 90 per cent of cases when the shot is ready and I see it on the small screen of my camera, I understand it is empty. And I am to afraid to admit it. Certainly it hurts, it really hurts, because everything you have been cultivating in your mind for a week, two or even a month, turned out to be uninteresting, but there is another side of it – this shot gave birth to other energy, to another, more enchanting image, deeper than I imagined. The person has revealed himself, opened to me and I admit, I am ready to sacrifice all those technical aspects of the shoot for that very moment, when all the truth, all thoughts, expectations and worries – not mine, but OURS – have revealed themselves in a single shot.

And it is wonderful. I always know about the course of events but I can never guess which shot will be the sincerest.

And it happens in most of the cases. However, there are different situations. First there are thoughts, inspired by the mood, music, movies, simple passers-by, by every second of our lives. And there appears the desire to find a person for a photoshoot and give way to everything that accumulated in your mind. But this desire appears as quickly as it disappears, because it is just an upsurge of emotions that replace each other. A thought is substituted by another one and I often forget it. True, every time I promise to have a notebook with me, to put down all my ideas, but a always forget to do it. Only the most lasting ideas survive in my mind and eventually are being put down and realized.

9)What are your plans for the future?

I just want to photograph, and if somebody likes it, that would be especially wonderful.