Walk & Shoot – Architectural Tour, November 2018
Interview with Alexandru Crisan by Andreea Leu
“Alexandru Crisan is an architect, photographer, painter and the list can continue. When you ask him, he says he is a visual artist. The photos are predominantly conceptual (with irony and sometimes absurd) and over the last two years are almost exclusively made on film. Alexander’s balcony does not keep plants or laundry dryers, but movie boxes waiting to be used. We saw one Friday, a coffee and talked about him, photography, architecture, the artists’ community he set up and the photo workshop he would coordinate.”
A.L.: How old are you?
A.C.: A few weeks, 40.
A.L.: What is your job?
A.L.: So what are you doing doing a photo workshop?
A.C.: How can I tell you?
(Alex thinks a few seconds, then smiles)
Let me defend myself like this: “I am big. I contain multitudes. “Walt Whitman wrote this. That’s how we all feel, especially when there’s a lot of noise, a lot of background noise around us. And I promise this was the only response in quoting from all our discussion!
A.L.: What’s your first memory with your camera?
A.C.: By ’91, autumn …
A.L.: How many years did you have?
(Moment of silence, Alex calculates, we calculate … in the end we get to an approximate result)
A.C.: I was about 12 years old when I received a Zenit E. A spotted a rabbit and a lens that seemed “huuuge” – I do not know how to say that in Russian! He broke just about everything he was in, scratching like a cat. It was something creepy… but do you think I care? 35 mm film, something banal, then. But as the movies chew at one point, I said, I should be able to fix it, by my hand, that another, I knew I had no way! And what I said – normally, at that age: that I can do anything, including breaking off those Russian screws and putting them back where the nut hurts. Well, after I dissected it and put it on the table and cleaned it, I congratulated: “So, how do you put it back now?” Not that I had cleaned it properly – I certainly broke it worse than it was! It was impossible for me to put it back, obviously! And then I got myself, I think for the first time, that I hurt myself with my hand. When they found out about this, they said, “Oh, bravo!” Then a moment like “Deus ex machina”, but fun: my aunt came and brought me an E-black Zenith this time. It scratched as badly, but it did not even break the movies. This is the device that broke me and put it back. It’s nostalgia.
A.L.: And when did you decide to make your photos public?
A.C.: In 2011, all autumn, when I got two friends in the same week. Coincidence?
I said they did not … They loved me: go with those pictures, put something online too! What are you doing, at the window?
A.L.: Did you have Facebook in 2011?
A.C.: I think I opened it then, I was hardly convinced that I needed that. Much later came the Instagram. I did not understand anything; well, now I do not get caught up with this socialization. You put a picture, you like. I’m not the follower. But, eventually, somehow you’re captaining, because you want to go out with the pictures somewhere, and that’s the easiest way. Not the most satisfying. Look, in 2012, it was the Year of Architecture. We have participated since 2008 with architectural projects. So I said to do something else, and make some pictures. And that year I also took the prize of the Architectural Photography Annual; I’m a little shocked (laughs). After 2012, when I saw that I was growing my likes on Facebook, I thought it was not so bad what I did. And I’ve always opened accounts on the more artsy social networks, where set of reviews, conversations, people who want to talk, comment, comment, blah blah blah. In 2014, 2-3 years away, I participated for the first time in international competitions – I had 8 winning pictures out of 10 entries. And I kept it until 2017, when I was bored and did not participate in anything. In most competitions, I took prizes with architectural photographs. And I said to myself, “I think they do something right.” And I got all kinds of projects. So here’s how I came to the photo of architecture while still teaching at the University of Architecture!
A.L.: So if we’re talking about prizes, we can talk tomorrow that you’re over 100, to understand.
A.C.: Yes. (laugh)
A.L.: What’s the most crazy prize?
A.C.: The one who shocked me. International Photography Awards 2015. I took it for a work called Empty Spaces. 18,000+ entries were registered, and I took the first place in architecture.
ARCHITECTURE PHOTOGRAPHY – “I TRY TO EXPRESS THE DIFFERENCE OUT OF AN ORDINARY IMAGE“
A.L.: Are genres in the architecture photo?
A.C.: I divide them into three, just according to how you do the picture and nothing more. It’s scheduled: I shoot some normal shots and, I think, before I do the exposure, what I want to get out of. Then it’s the forbidden one, done at a fantastic speed, when I simply go through that space, something is triggering and I say it is, that’s what interests me. And the third category – the works that follow. That is, you take a picture, you look at the picture and you say leave it dead, that you’ve fired a banal! But then, there’s something else in your eye, beyond. And then I try to get that beyond the banal image.
A.L.: Well, fine art where do these three types ends?
A.C.: Fine art is found by those who look. I do not consider anything more fine art. I’m not blowing up after this term. I’m bored with typologies.
A.L.: Well, I was looking at these in Igloo and you call them architectural photography, but I’m fine art. I do not understand anything in that building.(n.r. Alexandru Crişan is one of 12 architects selected by Igloo magazine to appear in file # 182, in the FAR exhibition and photo album).
A.C.: I just come with a concept. And I’ll let you imagine what you want. That would be the idea. I was still wondering how I made those pictures. The answer is that I see the space. I do not use photoshop. Most are made on the film. From 2017 onwards, I basically replaced the digital. I worked a lot on the film, then came the enthusiasm of the digital and then we had a complete return to the film. I told you yesterday what a shot is. That if we talk about 60 rolls, the costs are fabulous … scans, developments, you see they did not come out, you get angry. Now they call me from Allkimik that I’m ready … I’m afraid to go get them. (laugh)
A.L.: How do you relate to space and time?
A.C.: I do not report on time. Not in space, in fact. That’s just about how I turn and how I sit. More precisely, when you put me in a space – let’s say modern architecture – you see a glass and a sparse, the one next to me sees a glass wall and a door. I see the spaces very distorted. And that makes a lot of noise. The images you see in that magazine (n.r. Igloo) were designed on the spot. And the frames are taken so that I can put them exactly in the mirror – in the case of those in the mirror. That was a thing that had fun with me some years ago. Now, I find it sad and redundant if you ask me. I mean, putting some pictures in the mirror is not wow at all. But for some, the result was what we were looking for: an architecture that has no time and space. Because, in fact, it does not exist. She’s in my imagination, she gives some fragments taken from a real architecture.
A.L.: Give me some clues in your photo of architecture.
A.C.: You put yourself in the right corner, you take a very expensive wide angle or a calf if you can, you make a long half-length to catch two cars in front, you photographed a man and you created a very beautiful, colorful, digestible picture table.
A.L.: And how do you keep from kitsch?
A.C.: Trial and error. Then, courage and common sense. I’m a terrible fear not to go into kitsch, and that’s what I’m trying to do, I’m experimenting every time. Often, my experiments, in my view, have a hotter result. Fortunately, for me, the rest of the world seems to believe something else.
SHOOT – ARCHITECTURE PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR
A.L.: How does the route look like to you?
A.C.: I find it very interesting; very hard. It will seem simple to them. A walk through Bucharest, photograph some goals, we go on. But for me, I’m thinking about some cadres, I’m walking around, I’m leaving, I’m back in a year, Going through this experience is sort of a synthesis. You know some fragments you liked. The thing is kick back, because at some point you will stay behind with some stuff you did not surprise when you had to. I think this is more important than staying, studying a single building, and going further.
A.L.: From what you saw on the route, what building would you like to photograph the most?
A.C.: I think none. I think I would take a closer look at the context in which it is photographed. In this case, the context is more important than the building itself, which is just geometry. For example, those buildings glued to one another I have seen on a field in Cotroceni, are totally different stories and if you do not integrate the building in a context, I tell the story is dying. And then yes, it’s a beautiful photo with a glass building, but we do not know where it is, what happened to her, what is the speech around her, and what stories it can generate further.
A.L.: Are we going to get people in the middle of the street to shoot those tongues on the ground?
A.C.: Yes. It’s a gesture of honesty to get even the street atmosphere.
A.L.: Even if you are an Architect teacher and you will now also coordinate a photography workshop, I know that you also attend workshops made by others. Why?
A.C.: Curiosity. Total. Curiosity of what I can do in a new frame on a new subject.
OOZE – THE COMMUNITY OUT OF THE BOX
A.L.: Tell me about Ooze.
A.C.: OOze is about and for artists. Ooze is a digital platform that started from a manifesto made by two people. It is an initiative in which artists with a certain degree of notoriety are gathered among those like us. It is meant to create a kind of community that is out of the box total. So a digital community that does not respect the customs, but believes in the value system in the manifesto put there on the site. And we have managed to gather 24 talented people to the top of the nails, from all corners of the world – those who are voting members and who are kind of a board. At the moment, the idea is to make a platform that gathers people and organize some photo contests. And not just that. The main purpose of Ooze is marketing. This means that he becomes a kind of intermediary between the artist and the art galleries. It doubles in some way the artist’s authenticity certificate and gives credibility to the galleries. And he makes sure the artist gets the money he deserves. Well, it’s a multicultural platform. A platform that connects artists. Especially young artists.
A.L.: So you’re not just on Facebook.
A.C.: No, Oozealliance.com, Instagram, Twitter, and is now following this platform …
A.L.: And what do you have in Ooze?
A.C.: I’m one of the initiators of this Ooze.
A.L.: And how did you initiate?
A.C.: This whole story came out of a conversation with my friend in Holland, Oleg Ferstein. I told her what I wanted to do. I wanted to start in Romania a similar platform strictly in Eastern Europe, where I gather the artists from the region and pass in one way or another through accreditation. But I realized that it is not good to do this in Romania and that much easier can be done in the Netherlands. And Oleg told me that he wanted to do something that would be called in a stranger way and let’s make a kind of platform. And I said good, ok, what were you thinking about, exactly? He said, Well, here is my plan. I said, Well, here’s me! With workshops, with tight artists. We put together and decided to work together. That’s the story. There were two more associates, we were four. Now we only have two. But do not give us a beat so easy.
A.L.: Practically beat the pitch a bit.
Yes. (laughs) But this place deserves! That’s how it starts any wider project. Then…
A.L.: Alexandru Crisan will coordinate the Architectural Photography Workshop (November 17, 2018) -> description & event Facebook. Website: http://merg.in/bucuresti/de-povestit/interviuri/alexandru-crisan-eu-te-las-sa-iti-imaginezi-ce-vrei-tu-6475.html. Event page: http://merg.in/bucuresti/walk-shoot/shoot/shoot-ateliere-specializate-de-fotografie-6397.html.