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Interview with Silviu Gheție


When did you start taking pictures?


I have been doing it for a very long time. I was about 20 years old, I started in ‘87. But the beginning was much more difficult because you didn't have access to materials, to information. I was self-taught, I worked in cellarss and I was taught how to enlarge by a guy who didn’ t really know how to do it either. But it was very exciting that I could express myself through photography. Me who was very confused and technical - I couldn't have painted, for example, I wouldn't have had the patience. You know that moment when you're in the present for a second or two and you snap the picture? That's how much I resisted staying in the present. One second - two. I was very agitated. I was looking in the mirror and I saw the face of a bunny. I couldn't take myself seriously.


How did you go from miner to photographer?


I was a student of mining sub-engineers and I worked half-time in the mine as a miner's helper, cleaning, supplying... And in the afternoons I went to classes. I was employed half-time, so I only worked 2 weeks a month. And one evening I was late for classes, I was walking in the halls of the faculty and I see an open door - I had already started taking pictures; I thought I was pretty good. It was after the revolution. And I saw an open door where a toilet was supposed to be, but it was disused and usually the door was always closed. The door is open, I see a photo lab, an old man. I say:



Is this a photo lab? I take pictures too. 

Yes, look, I'm retiring now. 

And who comes in your place? 

I do not know.

And how should I try? 

Well, ask the staff. 



I was completely innocent and had no idea how these things worked. I went to those ladies, as he told me. I asked around and entered the competition alone and ended up the university photographer. That's how I first became a photographer. In the meantime, I was collaborating with the first newspaper in Baia Mare and with all that I was super bored. I had too much time. I would arrive at 10 and leave at 12 because I was bored - that's a job where you had to stay. And I stayed there until I got a job at the second newspaper. That's how I became a photographer.


What is the story of the picture of the man with the newspaper?


He was the head of the communist party. The communist party was re-established for a short time after the revolution and his name was Ion Tution. He came to the newsroom - I don't know much about him. After he talked to the others, I called him there in a room, let me take your picture. He was a character, I saw him, with that crutch... And I made two pictures of Ion Tution like this, zac - zac. I have another one like that, Olteanu, quite a strange character from that period. He appears in the picture with the trombone and the rally behind. 

I photographed him because he was the head of the Romanian Communist Party in Baia Mare after the revolution and his name was Ion Tution. And he had a crutch like a saint.


(editor’s note) The interview begins as an interview, but continues as a series of memories, as a discussion between two friends. Here you are looking at memory fragments; just as the memories do not respect a structural rigor, so this exhibition does not respect a rigor of exhibitions either. It is like a continuous flow produced by the hippocampus, neocortex and amygdala, rendered to you in a series of images and words.

the 90s

The picture of the cow, the woman and the tower is a classic. I was returning from a work trip with my colleagues from the newspaper and I asked them to make a pitstop because I had started a series with the tower - I thought since it is among the tallest towers in Europe it must be like the Eiffel Tower. And how many pictures are there of the Eiffel Tower, why wouldn't the Baia Mare Tower be my Eiffel. I started a life time project - I still have many pictures of the tower - I liked this image a lot because the background was good, everything was perfect. I've got the tower and our football stadium with the tower behind it and then just the empty stadium with one person sitting there - that's what I was doing at the time.

Here I was influenced at that time by... you know these art photographers from the communist era who were taking these beautiful pictures with a guy in a suit playing the violin, with instruments that are photogenic, brass instruments set in the park with fog, a brass instrument or a violin on a bench, this style of pictures. And, no, most of them now seem like sentimentalities to me. The trombone, therefore, is a cultural quote from the repertoire of great art photographers – the trombone against the rally background seemed very appropriate to me. That was the idea. The union no longer exists, I don't know how many people from that picture no longer exist. This Phoenix is ​​related to the tower because it is the union of the tower - you can put it next to the picture of the cow and the tower and they are related - with the history of the city. This is from my press days, that’s why I was at the rally.

It was a beer drinking contest organized by local television. And that's pretty much the story. It's Bergenbier. They would drink, then go to the toilet, then drink again, until the first throw up. I went to the contest for the newspaper, but I took pictures for myself. I also gave them to the newspaper, but I always did them for myself. I didn't really care for the paper. I considered myself good enough not to care too much, and they appreciated me and left me alone. I liked my colleagues from the former newspaper - "Pentru Socialism" which became "Graiul Maramuresului" - they were fair play in a way, compared to what is now in the press. They really had respect, they had some principles.

the 2000s

In the 2000s I took a lot of wedding pictures. I did an exhibition with weddings in Bulgaria. At that time, in Baia Mare, wedding photos were outdated from a technical and conceptual point of view. They didn't know tricks, they didn't know how to put blur in images. Commercial wedding photography was just at the beginning and I already had a trained hand and quite capable devices. Back then I was one of the only ones with a real telephoto lens, the only one with good lenses. That's why they invited me to weddings. At first they called me to reformed weddings, also because they didn't have a community member who knew how to take good photos. And now I still go but only those who know what they want are calling me. Who wants someone discreet and to take atmospheric pictures for them. That's the thing about weddings. The last one was last year. Also a reformed wedding of a friend of mine.

The Costinești wedding has a great story. I was a set photographer for Radu Munteanu's film. The movie was shot by the sea and I was on a terrace with the boys. It was the off-season, there was no one in Costinești. And it was the only restaurant open. Well, we were sitting there on the terrace bored, having the day off, semi-drunk, with the second director when I see this bride come into the hall and start dancing. We were outside. They were practicing for the waltz. I'm not a paparazzi, but encouraged by my colleagues, I went in and took their pictures. They didn't say anything. After which I continued to photograph during the wedding. I wasn't hired to take pictures; I sneaked in and took pictures. That was all. They didn't have anyone with pictures or video but they didn't comment that I did them either. It was great that evening. Everything was so unreal, like in a movie.

Since about 2009 I have worked less and less at the newspaper. Newspapers had begun to disappear. I went to Bucharest where I did set photography; I also did events.

after 2010

I was in Sighet, at the folklore festival, and I saw this lady; I still have a photo or two of her. You know I follow characters – first I catalogue them and then I follow them. I have them all in my head and make combinations with them. And this lady was super cool with the cigarette and that death metaphor in the back. I also used this picture for the Memento Mori project. Somehow the shadow of smoking hovered over her. 


This is from a wedding, flower power. I really like the composition because it's Bruegel style. It gives me a light, floating state... I would like to do more in this style. You see, it has a lot of characters, everything is as it should be.

I like the one with many people because it's more complex in expressions. It was a sheep fair, with political guests, the locals were a bit drowsy from the heat, the picture is from the end of the day. Now I'm trying to take photos like these. The more experience you have, the more you understand; and now I understand more than when I started photography. And it's normal for the themes I tackle to change, to become more complicated. People think I was better at the beginning, I don't think so. I'm not the same person anymore and the world has changed a lot since then. I have photos taken a long time ago that I still like very much. I don't have a creative crisis. Now I can take pictures of the same intensity in two days that I used to take in 3 years. I'm not looking for themes; I just open my eyes to what is

offered to me. Now I'm much faster – in the past I couldn't take pictures of people without them realising they are being photographed and come out naturally. It was something impossible for me. Now I'm on another level - from my point of view, which is also relative. 

I don't even try to beautify them too much anymore because I realized that it's not that important. Anyone can beautify, it's much more important that real moment that you capture, without showing yourself: look what a beautiful picture I took. That's kind of the point. I try not to appear in the picture myself. I don't want to shock with angles, lenses, colors, stuff like that. I'm not interested in that.


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