This month we have yet another member of the inimitable AllFormat Collective. Ioana Marinca. Ioana is an analogue photographer whose touching documentary work made me hunt her down on Instagram and she kindly agreed to an interview.
RP: Hi Ioana, (or is it Transilvirish?), thanks for agreeing to talk to us to start please tell us a bit about yourself.
Thank you very much for having me Robert! I should probably clarify the name first. Yes it’s Ioana [Yoanna], born in Transylvania and moved to the Republic of Ireland with my parents where I finished my education. I sound a little Irish now, so when a friend suggested the name I thought it was fitting.
RP: what inspired you to become a photographer?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently. I remember as a schoolgirl having notebooks with drawings, you’d pass them around your group of friends for them to leave their mark, we called them memory notebooks (caiet de amintiri). Around the same time my dad suggested I keep a diary, but although I tried it I was never a huge fan of writing. So when Dad bought the first family camera for the family, I sort of took control and have been shooting ever since. It’s my way of keeping a diary.
RP: you are the second member of All Format Collective to be interviewed (the other being Nick Mayo), how did you get involved with them and how has it helped your photography?
Honoured to follow Nick, he’s a great guy! Actually it’s all by chance, but the AllFormat group have been my inspiration to shoot film. Met James (@go_jmo) in London and we couldn’t stop talking photography, music, books, etc. I was shooting digital at the time, but was spurred on to try film and seem to have found my direction since. I call it the snowball effect: shooting film made me question more, think more, learn a lot more which then led to joining a darkroom collective (The Gate at Thames-side Studios), a group exhibition with them and more recently joining AllFormat.
RP: Can you tell us more about The Gate Darkroom?
The Gate are a non-profit studio offering memberships or seasonal use of their black & white darkroom facilities and also run workshops. They moved near the Thames barrier last year which is when I joined them. The site itself is beautiful – there’s the Iris shipwreck and an old plastic factory nearby and lots of other studios on site, it feels like an oasis of calm away from London. The members I’ve met so far are fantastic and have a wide range of photography skills. We have an upcoming open studio weekend on 9-10 June, anyone in London interested in analog photography should come say hello!
RP: You have some great projects on your website, I was particularly touched by “Francis”, how did this come about?
Thank you very much. Francis is a very interesting character, he will turn 105 in July which I still can’t get over. A friend I’ve known since kindergarten moved to London with his wife and lived with Francis for a few years. When I first met Francis, he was still very much independent. His physical strength has since deteriorated but his mind is miles sharper than mine. He was born in 1913 in Hungary so just imagine the stories he has. Another photographer friend tried to take his portrait but apparently Francis wasn’t in a great mood that day. I’m delighted he allowed me that afternoon. Francis was an amateur conductor and insisted to be photographed with his baton. He’s written a book but think it’s un-published, I really need to find the copy I was given.
RP: Can you share with us what you’re working on at the moment?
Sure, I’ve got a couple of digital projects I need to wrap up but on the analog front I’m selecting work for the upcoming AllFormat zine issue 3. Also planning a solo zine with the work I’ve shot over the last two years – the current title I have is Thinking of Home. Having lived in three different countries (and fallen in love with a fourth, New Zealand) they’ve all contributed to who I am as a person and as a photographer. When I say ‘I’m going home’ the next question was often ‘which one? Where do you feel at home?’ and the honest answer is many different places. Sometimes a stranger can, in a few seconds, make you feel like you’ve known them for years.
RP: What/who inspires your photography?
As a general rule, people inspire me. The list of photographers who have influenced my style is ever-growing, but apart from the AllFormat team (they’ve been huge influences!) a good summary is Christopher Anderson, Rena Effendi, Davin Ellicson, David Goldblatt, Graciela Magnoni, Anthony Suau and Vanessa Winship. I’ve finally discovered Susan Lipper too (took me a while) and am lucky to have a copy of Grapevine, think it’s my favourite photo book.
RP: What does photography mean to you?
Everything! When I’m not in the office or asleep, I do or think of little else other than photography. But for me, photography also means the intellectual discussion you can have with someone on the topic, analysing and learning from photo books and keeping an open mind about what photography is. Someone else’s particular style may not be to my taste now, but could easily influence my future work if there’s meaning behind it.
RP: What cameras/lenses/films do you shoot with and why?
Depends on the day. My favourite is the Leica M6 + 35mm Summicron combination. Kit (from AllFormat) very kindly lent me a zoom lens (80-200) for my Nikon FM2 and I can’t wait to try it out. Never got this close in street, but I love what both Kit and Shane Taylor (@heroesforsale) do with their close-ups. Or closer still, Christopher Anderson’s recent pictures from China – a book due out later this year. I also have a Mamiya RZ67 but I’ve only taken one good picture with it so far. In terms of film, primarily HP5. I’ve recently played with some colour film too, will see if any good ones.
RP: what’s your main reason for shooting film?
I love that it’s slowed me down. Working in the City means I’ve been multitasking for 11 years and it started influencing my behaviour outside the office. In conversations I’d constantly jump from a topic to another, interrupting people, or even simple tasks at home: at any point in time I’d start five separate things and get distracted by the sixth. Film and developing it at home has slowed me down, you can’t rush the chemicals! I also question why I press the shutter more, because there’s a direct cost to that exposure, more than you would feel with digital. So I’d better have a good reason for making that exposure.
RP: Any anecdotes you can share from your time as a photographer?
Always be 100% certain there’s film in your camera. I shot what felt like a good roll until I got to the 37th, 38th, 39th exposure and thought “wait a minute…”.
RP: What are you looking for in a photo?
Meaning, a story, a reason. Whether the picture is part of a series of carefully sequenced single images, a story on a particular topic or an investigation spanning years – as long as there is thought behind the picture, it will be great.
RP: Biggest regret relating to photography?
Most recent one is letting a young woman with pink hair and matching pink jacket get away before I had asked her for a portrait. But whether photography related or otherwise I don’t really have big regrets.
RP: Any closing comments?
Thank you very much for having me, you’ve got a great collection of photographers on here.
www.thegatedarkroom.co.uk – open studio 9/10 June