She said / He said 2
The world of photography is foreign to me. I’ve been in front of your lens many times, but I never pay attention to the technicalities. I’d rather have a conversation with you anyway. And I think that is the reason why our work speaks. In our collaborations, the technicalities become second priority, and, when we do need to focus on them, we typically end up creating something else in the process. Something that adds to our story, or to the mystery, or to the design. We let our ideas flow and allow for our environments to be dynamic. We seek mystery and explore the unknown that, in some way, to us, becomes the known.
One way we have found these unknown-knowns is through the many places we have traveled. You and I are not tourists, we are adventurers. We don’t travel to escape our lives, we don’t arrive with lists needing to be checked off, we aren’t trying to “find ourselves”, and we don’t come with the intention of taking anything. Not even photographs. The photographs we make come from our desire of exploration and the mystery we find in the places we end up. We happened to stumble upon a cave with thousands of stacked rocks in Cinque Terre; photographs were made.
We rode up to the island of Mykonos awe struck by the ancient windmills looking out over the sea; photographs were made. We spent an afternoon in your neighbor’s old-barn-turned-bookstore with thousands of books, some even illegible; photographs were made. We could be in another country, or just outside your Connecticut home. We travel to seek awareness. We live in the moment. We ask ourselves “what can we bring?” rather than “what can we take?”.
We can only hope that people who view our work understand our messages. We often talk about the necessity of a “tribe”. The need to be a part of a group of people who understand us without needing an explanation. Of course, these people inspire our work, but it is possible that our inspiration comes more from the people who don’t understand – and sometimes it is painfully clear that they don’t. These are the people who inspire us to continue. We continue to try to break through that barrier of understanding.
We strive to change perspectives and open up horizons. We fight the superficialities that bombard our world. Sometimes, words help. But I also find that words can get in the way, particularly of visual art. We are constantly bombarded with words – small talk with coworkers, music on the radio, clamor from the television, cereal boxes, news headliners, subways, restaurant windows – no wonder that when words hold true meaning, they are often cast aside or misunderstood. This is why the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is such a cliché. Ironic isn’t it?
But words are never the enemy. Without them, there would be no language or literature – and I could write a book on how books have become a part of our inspirations (pun intended). (1) We met in a bookstore. I was modeling for your bookstore project. A collection that started from a dream of yours about books and women and the mysteries hidden in both. (2) Your house is made of books. The walls are covered with ceiling high shelves housing books from how to talk to your cat about guns to The Odyssey and everything in between. (3) You wrote a book. A beautiful book about your life and experiences. (4) The time we spend together often feels like something out of a book. Not in that it feels scripted, but that our experiences and conversations at times seem only something of the best fiction writer’s imagination. (5) Many of our conversations revolve around literature. We discuss iconic writers and artists and their perspectives; some that we easily understand and love – Renoir, Sally Mann, Rodin – and others that we try to dissect – Jackson Pollock, Balthus, Patricia Highsmith. Art inspires our art.
Making connections with other artists, whether current or before our time, enlightens our creativity and leads us to conclusions about where our own ideas originated. Whether walking through museums, reading books, watching movies, or attending live performances, surrounding ourselves with art and making those connections with other artists has only inspired us further.
Connections to other things – whether it be artists, people, places, nature, or even higher powers – has, and always will be, sources of inspiration. Dance has been a leading factor in those sources for centuries. In the time of King Louis XIV, it was believed that those who had the ability to dance, were more connected with higher powers because they were able to use their mind, body, and spirit at the same time and at their highest working capabilities. From childhood, dance has inspired me and in more ways than I could ever count.
I love the rigorous training, the repetition, the daily fight from within yourself, the relationship you create with your mind, your body, and your spirit. Whether I am physically dancing, teaching, choreographing, or watching from the theater seats, the energy that is created through movement is something that continues to inspire me daily. But without music, dance is nothing. My favorite choreographer, George Balanchine, is famously known for saying “See the music, hear the dance”. And that is the ultimate goal of any dancer; to portray the music in a visual form. Music is a constant in both of our lives. Anything from Vivaldi to Miles Davis to David Gilmour to Coldplay.
We listen to it all. We discuss our differences in how we perceive it. You describe Stravinsky as being structured because of his angular sounds in his Capriccio, whereas I, having danced in Stravinsky ballets and understand the difficulties in counting his melodies, consider it unstructured. We deconstruct the patterns in music the same way we create patterns in your lens. We use angles, shadows, storylines, and movement to create the unknown-knowns. To tell the story. To describe the mystery.
One day, we will retire the well-traveled black and white striped skirt that has become somewhat of an icon in our collaborations. We will bury it in a time capsule in your garden and dig it up in a decade or so. Maybe time will bring it more meaning, maybe not. Time can only do what we want it to. It can move fast or slow, it can heal or hurt, it can be meaningful or it can be empty. The time we have spent together has only brought goodness to me – goodness in art, meaning, inspiration, and more.
Here’s to more places, people, words, books, art, dance, music, patterns, and time.
My intention is not to step into your sacred territory (dance), but I often think that I am a choreographer of words and images. Would you agree that both photography and dance are about infusing patterns with poetry? Last week, when we went to see Balanchine’s “Jewels” in New York City, I was seduced by the structure of the music and the choreography, thinking of how my predilection for symmetry had found a type of reassurance in that environment. One of the thing art does is putting order into chaos.
Thinking and dreaming in English (my second language) has become a natural way of being. In photography, the rhythm of silences echoes the loud rhythms of life surrounding us. For years, art has been a refuge for me. Now, it’s a propeller. I don’t claim any musical knowledge, but I claim a sensibility for music that was born out of my introvert nature. Like most artistic forms I have encountered in my life, my love for music came out of my parents’ death. Listening to Mozart, Mahler, or Coltrane has been a type of prayer for me.
A good image must be musical, and by that I don’t refer to how you apply the elements and principles of design every time you click the shutter release button. A musician needs to know how to read music in order to improvise successfully. That’s why instead of talking about gear, I am interested in how to search for patterns, contrast, and balance in my images. At this point it is instinctual. I take photographs the way a jazz musician improvises. Before they become language, I often listen to my photographs the way I listen to a musical piece.
I was born in Romania, a place where language was both a weapon and a prison. This duality made me aware of the constant fluidity of verbal/ written expression, and also of the power of words. As a refugee, English became a blanket, a pair of borrowed wings, and an unexpected lover. There is a fluidity and easiness in knowing several languages.
They inform and support each other. Words translate naturally into images for me, and images often revert to words. As a painter I used to draw a lot more, but now my best sketches are embedded into sentences. I often make shopping lists using words that later would trigger ideas, then photographs. It’s part of my need and desire to belong and to buy more time.
In the beginning of our relationship, I used to talk a lot about death. I think I still do to some extent. You are probably a little more used to it by now, but let’s face it, isn’t all art, photography in particular, a race against mortality? Yet, you know how alive we feel when we create together, how important our togetherness is.
One thing that I admire about you is how you understand the danger embedded into the empty hours polluting our lives. Not that you have to be creative every minute; we have to pay bills and take the trash out, but you are aware that the more we live by “art before dishes” credo, the richer our lives will become.
I died several times during my lifetime. It is a strange feeling to be so close to your own demise, to taste it, to embrace it, reflect upon it, and ultimately throw it in a creative cooking pot. We have no control over the rollercoasters of our destinies, but we could become aware of the importance of each hour. The awareness of my own mortality started in my childhood, when nobody told me that the show has a limited run.
The sudden collapse of my outer world forced me to focus on my inner world. Loss made me think and see; it became a fertilizer for positivity. Yet, I continue to be terrified pretty much every single day. I take that fear and turn it into fuel and art. Yet, I don’t see myself as an artist. I don’t have the ability to create anything. I am a gardener moving plants around, a sponge absorbing everything: conversations, paintings, scents, feelings.
I improvise. You can’t be an artist unless you learn how to mine that, and in the process, realize that the only things that provide continuity are people, love and art. My garden has many layers of soil, blood, tears, hopes, joys and tragedies in it. I love living in the present, but time is the main fertilizer for everything that I do. I suppose this assimilation is true for all creative people.
When we were in Paris this summer and did the photoshoot in the Rodin Museum, I couldn’t even load batteries into my cameras. I felt clumsy, overwhelmed. The spirits of Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin were embedded into the walls, floors, and mirrors.
Your presence was magic. I know we both became aware of the continuum that’s part of both art and life. The photographs we took in the museum will most likely outlive us. There is sacredness, humility and joy in acknowledging that. Photography is both a type of remembering and forgetting.
Of course, none of this would happen without our ability to travel. Do you ever feel that during our journeys we become so wealthy because we own everything we see? We are lucky, but we create that luck every time we are together. It would be unfair to compare our favorite places the way we sometimes compare relationships. You and I live in the now, but as artists, we have become aware of how places become embedded into our psyche the way meaningful relationships are.
Connected by invisible ropes of scents and images, Paris, Florence, Venice, New York City are first experienced, stored for later consumption like underground fuel tanks, then later awakened for their true purpose: becoming comfort zones where we could rest and resurrect our memories and stories. We both travel because we secretly hope for answers to our questions. In the end, we ask more questions. I love traveling the world with you, but after a while, I run back into the woods surrounding my home, as if chased by some primeval creature about to devour me.
We find refuge in our common Venn diagram that is our relationship. Then, the careful, painstaking sorting of images, thoughts and words happens. It doesn’t matter how far we travel or where we meet, but when we do, magic happens. We share a common hunger for experiencing everything worth experiencing: art, music, dance, travel. We think that everything has the potential to become art. Whoever said that art doesn’t come from nature anymore but from other art was probably right. We don’t exist outside the visible and invisible tribe of artists who inspire us.
What we do requires an audience, but the act of doing it requires solitude. Despite being an introvert, I love being among people. When I was focusing on painting and also when I started taking my first photographs, the human figure rarely appeared in my work. That has changed radically in the past several years. Photography has become a tool for reaching out to people.
And what about books? Somehow, we both manage to create space for reading and for sharing what we discover. I remember reading how after losing his eyesight, Borges, one of my favorite writers, kept buying books just for the pleasure of possessing them. The blind who has seen so much more than all of us, those who are able to physically see. There is a photo of him smiling, next to a painting. I like the thought of the blind art collector and the blind reader. Then you could focus on feeling a poem or an image.
Reading might be the last frontier of privacy and intimacy. Who knows, maybe everything in my art comes from books. I am interested in poetry and philosophy more than in traditional narrative forms. The writers who I admire the most speak in a poetic language. (Even my novel, “Reliquary,” is best read aloud.) And when it comes to my photography, I am interested in how the subconscious becomes visible through our narratives “The Bookstore,” the series of nudes I worked on for five years, could be ultimately read as an ode to the sacredness of both books and the eternal feminine. I am not from the Cartier Bresson “decisive moment” school of thought.
I don’t have the patience and the genius to walk the streets and wait for something to happen. Instead, I invent scenarios and bring them to life. I try to infuse my images with a sense of mystery. I also try not to complete them. I prefer circular narratives more than linear ones. I am intrigued by open endings. If we want an image to have any impact, we have to keep its doors open so the viewer is able to complete it with his/ her own questions and experiences.
I am grateful and excited for the doors that we have opened so far and for those waiting ahead of us.
Megan Klamert/ Florin Ion Firimita
All works by Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin used by special permission from the Musee Rodin, Paris.
Part One: She Said / He Said (Published in June 2019)
About Megan: an Ohio native, she is a graduate of Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and currently resides in CT where she performs and teaches high-caliber ballet training. She also is the Ballet Mistress for a renowned ballet company assisting in producing professional performances throughout the season. Megan became interested in modeling shortly after moving to the East coast and quickly became enthralled in Florin’s work and ideas. She has worked with him ever since and has grown as an artist and a person through collaborating with him.
About Florin: born in Romania, now living in the United States, he is a visual artist, educator, filmmaker, and novelist. He took his first photograph at the age of three using a Soviet made Zenith camera. After his parents’ death, he continued to study painting and drawing and kept taking photographs while holding jobs such as welder, grave digger, janitor, window decorator, and security guard. The Art of Leaving, a film about his art, was the official selection of seven international film festivals. Most recently, Florin’s works have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art/ Grand Palais in Paris. This past July he had the great honor to be invited by the Rodin Museum to create a body of work inspired by the work of Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin. The museum has acquired ten of his photographs for their permanent collection. His photography is represented by the GADCOLLECTION Gallery in the City of Light.
Born in Romania, now living in the United States, he is a visual artist, educator, filmmaker, and novelist. He took his first photograph at the age of three using a Soviet made Zenith camera. After his parents’ death, he continued to study painting and drawing and kept taking photographs while holding jobs such as welder, grave digger, janitor, window decorator, and security guard. The Art of Leaving, a film about his art, was the official selection of seven international film festivals. Most recently, Florin’s works have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art / Grand Palais in Paris. This past July he had the great honor to be invited by the Rodin Museum to create a body of work inspired by the work of Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin. The museum has acquired ten of his photographs for their permanent collection. His photography is represented by the GADCOLLECTION Gallery in the City of Light.