When I think stylish, talented and witty, I immediately think of Andreea Bogdan, the Transylvanian photographer, who wears vintage with such confidence you would swear the pieces were picked from the latest catwalk.
Photo: Diego Zuko for Glamour US
She has an eye for details, both in her photography as well as when she creates fashionable stories using her amazing vintage wardrobe. She is a vintage guru, her love for rare, unique garments transcends time and space and you can easily see it in her outfits, they’re timeless.
If you’re wondering where to find her, she lives in the heart of Transylvania, in wonderful Cluj. She enjoys living in Cluj a lot, as she puts it: The city is very different in winter, as opposed to summer (how very surprising, right?) but in the summer the whole city is buzzing with the ‘terrace life’, and lemonades are the go-to drinks. In the winter, you only have one choice and that’s ‘cozy’. So, in the mornings you can find me in Roots, a great little cafe with a London kinda vibe (because nostalgia hits me sometimes) and they have a killer carrot cake. Plus a very sought after ‘place by the window’ great for people watching also in great demand. And then I guess you can always bump into me on the streets, as I tend to walk. A lot! For vintage hunting, and for people hunting. Ok, people shooting. People watching? Actually, for photo taking. I spend my evenings in Sisters, my go-to place for meeting friends.
Meeting Andreea and Mihail, Andreea’s good friend and a super talented photographer as well, felt like reconnecting with old friends like Cluj was their home and I was more than welcome to stay over. Which I did, and believe me when I say it, Andreea’s balcony view is to die for!
Enjoy this interview and stay close, more will come!
Photo: Vanessa Jackman
How do you start your day?
Andreea: Hmm! I usually start my day by having a cup of coffee on my balcony, here in Cluj. I don’t really have a morning routine, I do the usual, always clean my face and apply moisturizer and then I tend to go out with my camera. Since moving into my new flat, I really enjoy the balcony view of my hometown while zipping a wake-me-up cup of coffee.
Where did you grow up and what was your dream job as a child?
Andreea: I grew up in Cluj and I had the typical Transylvanian childhood, which was absolutely amazing, I used to go to the countryside, roam the hills, climb trees and eat a lot of fruit.
My dream-job hmm… I think it was to become an archeologist, I always loved exploring and roaming around. At one point, I ended up having a camera from my parents, took some photos and now looking at them, they’re not that bad (Laughs!). Back then I didn’t aspire to be a photographer, but at one point I applied to Cluj’s Film&Photography University, I got accepted and I loved it!
So, I don’t think I had a dream job, even when working with photography – at University I worked with stop-motion animation, which is basically thousands of photographs put together, but I didn’t consider myself a photographer. So, I guess the closest thing that I could mention to a dream job is an archeologist. For me, photography is the art of finding, in my case: people.
My mom told me a funny story: we were on this train journey going somewhere and I was really young, and there was this man across from where we sat. He kept looking at me and sketching and my mom got a bit worried – until the bizarre man finally said: ‘Sorry, but I must say: your lovely girl, she will become an artist, she has such an expressive face and big eyes!’ So, my mom kept this story until after I got accepted at university… and then she told me with a sweet attitude, kind of like
“ I knew you’d be an artist! I knew it!”
Photo: Asia Typek for http://www.garancedore.com/
What was the transition, from you being into film and studying art, how did you move towards fashion photography?
Andreea: I’ve been passionate about fashion for a very long time and inherited my mom’s love for vintage clothing, she always took me to vintage shopping. The moment when I fell in love with fashion is easy to pinpoint – in high school a friend of mine came back from a holiday in Italy with Vogue magazines. We were only high school girls and those magazines were a feast for the eye! This was when something clicked – after this revelation, the blog boom happened and I started following The Sartorialist religiously so, I guess that my interest in fashion had existed even before the one for photography.
The transition was made when I moved to London. My idea was that I would move to London to study film, to carry on with my studies and eventually work within the industry, but then life played its cards differently and I started to make jewelry and focused more on my vintage clothing. So, I had a vintage clothes stall in a cute little market in London. Florence Welch would come and buy garments from me all the time! I would make jewelry and she would have dress-up sessions, she tried everything on and sang in the changing room, it was surreal, really!
I made the transition from fashion to photography after finishing my master in jewelry design when I started taking photographs again and then became the Creative Director of a company that was in charge of finding new design talents. I went to Fashion Week to scout for designers and as a photographer, I was offered a job of street style photography. When I found myself there with a camera in my hand, the reality hit me and I realized I had so many things to shoot. I had a surprisingly positive experience photographing and being photographed, and since that point photography just kind of took over.
When did you take your first significant photo and which camera did you use?
Andreea: I used my first ever camera for a very long time, which was a D80, a small one but I added a very good lens, 50mm 1.4. My most memorable shot taken with that camera was of Karlie Kloss. I was at Vogue Festival and I snapped the photograph completely by accident, you can see it on my Instagram account.
Karlie Kloss by Andreea Bogdan
Do you have any favorite photographer that you aspire to or that you get inspiration from?
Andreea: I love Steve McCurry’s photography.
Mihail adds: I totally agree! Steve McCurry’s work is brilliant!
If you could photograph whoever? Who would you choose to photograph? Which city would you prefer as an environment for your photo?
Andreea: Wes Anderson in Budapest because everything in Budapest just screams Wes Anderson. If I was to have my ultimate setting, I think this would be it.
Tell us about your last photoshoot? What was the idea behind it?
Andreea: On my last photo shoot, I worked with Danish fashion blogger Marie, from Nemesis Babe and was assisted by Mihail, ( who was laughing while Andreea was praising him and his creative ideas) who was a great help. We shot it in a beautiful location, a Hungarian manor house in Cluj, beautiful evening light, all shot of film. Marie and I did the styling, all using my vintage clothing, and the idea was a sort of Stay-at- home Geisha type theme, that was the take on it, it was slightly Asian with vintage pajamas and so on.
Nemesis Babe by Andreea Bogdan
What do you find most challenging about the career of a photographer in the fast paced world of today?
Andreea: For me, one of the initial challenges that I can pinpoint is that is very easy to be carried away with how things should be done. We live in a society that is highly based on imagery and inevitably you get influenced by everything that surrounds you. I think that there needs to be a moment when you decide what you want to be influenced by and what is not interesting for you. It’s very difficult, maybe impossible to make something purely original nowadays. What I’ve learned as a photographer is that you have to make photography your own and approach it in a way that makes you feel that it’s your own. The biggest challenge for me is to have a recognizable style. If your photographs speak of yourself instantly, without any words needed, that is true artistry.
Mihail, please check his Instagram here and be amazed: Basically, you can’t really have your own style, you can try to have one but willingly or unwillingly you will be influenced, at least at the very beginning. If you think about art in general, literature, painting and so on, you’ll always find influences in whatever piece of art you examine, it’s in our nature to take on examples and transform them through our own vision. Use all those mixes and see the way they work for you and try adding something that will make it yours, that uniqueness that will scream your name.
Nemesis Babe by Andreea Bogdan
Let’s talk about style: How long does it take for you to put an outfit together and what’s the process?
Andreea: It definitely depends on what you dress up for, but for me, just as I would wake up thoughts would come in my mind of what I wanted to wear, depending on the weather and the situation.
In my daily life, I usually go for very simple and very comfy outfits, especially in Cluj. because I’ve noticed that my style has changed since I moved back to Cluj. London provided an environment where it was easier to wear more, to be more colorful, to feel more comfortable sticking out, not that I was very flamboyant, it was just more comfortable to wear whatever. Here, it would be a place where people would give you curious looks and sometimes you’re fishing for that, other times you just want to blend in, so I guess it depends on from day to day. Now, my process is not as elaborate, I have lots of clothes and shoes. I always end up accumulating stuff, still, it works out for the best, because I can use them for photoshoots and so on.
Photo: Tommy Ton for style.com
Fav clothing item at the moment?
Andreea: A vintage, Japanese bright yellow dress.
Photo: Lavinia Cernau
Future plans? Will we find you in Cluj from now on? What about new projects?
Andreea: I do plan to stay in Cluj for a while. Being here gives me something that I always felt like I was missing in London, because in Cluj and Romania in general, you have access to so many beautiful locations. Especially now that I know Mihail, I can see it’s so exciting to do photoshoots in all these beautiful locations, whereas in London you would find it difficult to get all the permits in order to access locations. Being in Cluj gives me more freedom of artistic expression!
Photo: Scott Schuman for The Sartorialist
Any piece of advice for a new photographer who’s dreaming of a breakthrough in the photography world?
Andreea: The best advice is just to do it, because I feel like what I do now I could’ve done long time ago. I had the tools, I was very present in what was happening, following many photographers from the industry, but I was too insecure to place myself among them. Don’t overthink, don’t procrastinate too much just start doing!
Mihail: Start taking photos without comparing yourself with other, don’t look at numbers of followers, don’t judge levels of popularity. If you chase high numbers of followers then you’ve started photography for the wrong reason. Learn from others, better yourself and find your own photography style that will differentiate your work out there.
You’re throwing a dinner party and you can invite four people, dead or alive. Who would you invite to share a glass of good wine with?
Andreea: Ursula LeGuin (my favorite science fiction writer) I would absolutely love to have a chat with her over a glass of wine. I would invite my boyfriend as well because he introduced me to her wonderful universe. David Bowie, because I am so utterly disappointed I didn’t get to see him perform. Also, what a style icon he was! And Little Edie. If you’ve never watched Grey Gardens, a documentary about her life, I strongly recommend it. It really stuck with me.