1Can you introduce yourself and talk about how you got into photography?
What can I say about myself? My name is Elena Aldea and I am from Brasov, Romania. I started amateur photography as a teenager. I didn't take any courses in this field, everything I know and what I do now are the results of what I learned over the years. I had the opportunity at one point to see a catalogue of an international photography competition and that's how I saw that photography means something else. I started experimenting with different styles and finally settled on conceptual and digital art.
2Where did you study photography?
I didn't study photography nor did I study art, unfortunately. Instead, in all my spare time I have been learning and always trying to improve myself. From what I have seen around me, from others I consider better than me, and from my mistakes.
3Do you remember your first shot? What was it?
My first photos were taken randomly: people, landscapes, plants, animals, etc. No meaning, no ideas, just pictures.
In the true sense of photography my first shoot was a black and white nude. In nature. Quite a difficult subject especially for a beginner.
Shooting more by instinct, not understanding much about light or composition, with a compact camera, I can say the shoot was a success! And now after 20 years I look at these photos with pleasure.
4What equipment do you use?
I've never been much of a techie, nor do I have the patience to browse and compare dozens of camera models. So, I use a Canon camera that hasn't been made for a while and 2 different focal length lenses of the same brand. Obviously, technique is very important, but NOT more important than my eyes and mind.
5What do you hope to achieve?
I didn't set a goal per se. I have a few objects obviously, but more than that I want to improve my knowledge and technique. The better my technique and knowledge, the more I can create things that reach the mind and soul of the viewer - the most important thing.
6What compliment inspired/touched you the most?
For me it was surprising to receive messages of praise from various people (whom I don't know) who really appreciate the work. Moreover, some of them have turned me into their inspiration. My works are analyzed by them, I often get questions about how I made certain effects, where my ideas come from, etc. Some of them even asked me for help in making their works. All this is very important to me. It means that my work reaches the minds and souls of lovers of beauty. What could be more important than that?
7What inspires your unique storytelling?
The truth is that very few people live like in stories. Most of us lead simple, mundane lives where routine rules. I find it easy to create things that don't exist or are hard to find in real life. And why wouldn't I? Each of us lives a little bit in imaginary worlds - here I mean dreams and fantasies. The lucky ones can make their dreams come true. But most don't. In every image I create there is a part of me, because every image represents a part of my imaginary world. I allow myself to explore this world and moreover I can share parts of it with others.
8What THREE (3) words describe your photography style?
Concept, fantasy and message.
9Congratulations! As the winner of the European Photography Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?
To be honest, I had forgotten the date of the results announcement. I participate in many competitions and I don't always manage to remember the deadlines. Obviously, it was a great pleasure and joy to be announced that I was nominated for the Platinum section. Being among the best is not easy, but sometimes dreams do come true, don't they?
10Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2022 European Photography Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
The Sandstorm work has been, let's say "tested". I posted it first on social media and it was very much appreciated. Shortly after I dared to enter it in your competition. It's my first time participating in your competition and I tried my luck with this nude. As I said above nude photography was my first serious attempt in photography, so there is no way I could have taken it off. Now I realize I'm sorry that, in the meantime I neglect this type of photography.
11How has winning an award developed your career?
Unfortunately, generally speaking, winning awards is not enough to bring a consistent change in this career. As in any field the competition is very high, I know a lot of good artists, so sometimes you end up asking yourself "why would anyone buy or choose my work? The great good fortune of art in general is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I've had the pleasant surprise of selling work to people who have said "this suits me". Back to your question, winning an award forces you to work harder, raise your own standards and not give up. And then things will definitely change.
12Name 1-3 photographers who have inspired you.
Three is too little. I give a lot of weight to authors who work in black and white and those who fit the conceptual theme.
13What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out, by a mentor or your role model?
I didn't get much advice. Criticism or praise yes, but not much advice. And I'll tell you why, I don't come from an artistic background, not even my close friends are involved in the arts of any kind. So, I have had no one to ask for advice. At some point I got my hands on a catalogue of an international photography fair. Until that moment I was doing photography (I thought), the catalogue opened my eyes. I started to get interested and to understand what photography meant and I had to understand that what I had been doing until then was practically null. So, I learned by looking at others better than me. And it has served me well.
14What advice would you give someone who would like to become a photographer today?
Given my start and my journey in this field, all I can say is "don't give up". Sometimes it may seem hard, that a dream remains just a dream, but most of the time we stand in the way of our dreams. So never give up.
15What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
I don't think there is a key, or rather for everyone the key is or represents something else. For me for example, taking into account that in my country artists of this kind are not very promoted and encouraged, the key is ambition and perseverance. I simply don't want to and can't give up.
16How do you stay in that space of being receptive to new information and knowledge?
Fortunately for our times the internet is a help that cannot be quantified. Obviously, there are bad parts as well as good. But out of all the virtual sphere I prefer to spend my time only on what is useful and helps me strictly in what I like to do. I follow contests that are launched, try to tackle topics I'm less familiar with, follow people from whom I can learn new editing techniques, etc. It all depends on how much time you're willing to devote to your passion.
17Anything else you would like to add to the interview?
What else can I say? Thank you so much for taking the time to judge my entry in your competition and of course for your nomination. I hope to "see you" in the next competition. All the best!