Ioana Moldovan is a Romanian freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer.

Some of her series and projects were published on important magazines such as Vice and Lenscratch. Some of Ioana Moldovan portfolio’s pictures were part of exhibitions in some European countries as France and Portugal.

Later, she started to document protest movements and conflict zones. One of her images from the Bucharest protests is elected even today in the Top 40 of The Most Powerful Photographs Ever Taken on BuzzFeed. Ioana Moldovan doesn’t limit her work to just taking photos, she volunteered to do a four months photography workshop for disadvantaged kids in Bucharest and also had their work showcased in an exhibition.

Ioana Moldovan

When I first saw some of Ioana Moldovan’s photos on the web they immediately captured my attention, and I wanted to know more about her and her work. Therefore I’d like to share it with you through this passionate and interesting interview.

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I’d like to start this interview from the beginning of your career, and ask you how and when did you approach to photography?

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 related areas.

Part of your projects and testimonies depict areas and people from Romania, your country. What’s your relationship with it? According to you, which is its biggest lack and which its biggest value?

Someone told me once he likes almost all my photographs, but it is the ones in my home country that really move him like no others. I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s a question of level of understanding, of familiarity. And most probably it’s a question of time. The more time you spend in a place and on a subject the more chances you get to go beyond its surface, to find its true nature, its hidden, but most interesting parts. And I spent most of my time in Romania.

Romania’s biggest lack? I believe it is failing to provide people living in this country the environment that enables them to show their biggest values.

Your last team project “Aging Romania” shows a very special and unusual part of the country, the oldest generations, which you analyzed through people and their stories, whereas for the institutions is a matter of money. Tell me more about the project, how it was born and why you wanted to highlight this topic.

Together with journalist Laurentiu Diaconu-Colintineanu, we’ve worked for over a year attempting to explore the universe of longevity and at least partly answer the question “How exactly is Romania aging” or better said “Is longevity a gift in our country or rather a commodity that expires if people’s money run out”. The mosaic of portraits we gathered so far (it is an ongoing project) tries to provide an in depth look at life at the golden age and also to identify faulty mechanisms that need fixing through public policies. 

Romania’s aging population is a topic of public discussion but only in terms of money. Pension fund deficits are making news headlines at least twice a year within governmental budget decisions. Public policies regarding the elderly though are seldom thought of, let alone planned and approved by public authorities. We tried to show the human side of this issue and how it affects the elderly.

Why? Apart from trying to explore a subject in depth, one that has meaning beyond today’s breaking news, another reason for me was imagining my parents, my friends’ parents, among the elders that are forgotten by society, pushed into feeling useless. I don’t want them there, I want them wrinkled, but smiling.

Being a photojournalist, gives you the opportunity to be in contact with all different kind of people and stories. What’s the most interesting thing about people? Do you have a funny story or one that moved you, related with your journeys that you want to share with us?

That’s exactly what I love about photojournalism, what drew me to it: being constantly among people, of all kinds, 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. I learn so much from people I photograph, that telling their story or giving them a voice might never be reward enough for what I receive. But it is still a duty I proudly take on.

As to the stories that moved me, I don’t believe there was a single journey without at least one. Just to give you one example that touched me as a human being, not only a photographer, I remember a very nice lady living near Gaesti, in what is now the remaining of a workers’ colony. One of the rooms in her modest and almost shattered house was filled with corn cobs, which she used for heating and her socks had holes in them. This woman did not allow me to leave her home without feeding me. From the little she had, she cooked me fried chicken. I will always remember how guilty I felt for eating her chicken, but at the same time I will never forget or underestimate her kindness and her determination in sharing her food with strangers. This episode is not singular, it was just the first; and it did not happen only in my country, I also experienced it in Za’atari, the Syrian refugee camp for example. And I did fall in love with children living in the colonies, who know how to find happiness in the smallest of things and who picked wild flowers to give me as I left.

Do you have some new projects going on? Or some journey that you are planning?

Currently, I am working on another team project, documenting the 2014 Romanian presidential elections campaign. The project can be seen HERE. 

I plan to continue working on my ongoing projects. One is covering life in the former communist workers colonies; another one is documenting local traditions and the evolution of Romanian fairs

We also plan to take the Aging Romania project further and maybe focus on people dealing with Alzheimer. 

These are the plans, who knows what comes unexpectedly? But I’m looking forward to all of it.

Text by: Andra Munteanu // All pics by Ioana Moldovan © All rights Reserved