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Daniel Munteanu

Daniel Munteanu

CONCEPTUAL MAGAZINE: Daniel Munteanu! Welcome to Conceptual Magazine! We are so happy that you have become part of our tribe and even happier that we get to learn more about you and your art! Our goal is to meet as many artists as possible and share their works and what makes them the artist they’ve become! We believe it is important to share these journeys because we are artists ourselves, here at CM, and we know what it is to yearn for others to see our souls. So, without further introduction, are you ready to begin?

DANIEL MUNTEANU:  :)

CM: We always like to begin with childhood! We want to see the complete picture of your life story. So, tell us your beginnings.

DM: I was born in the small town of Deva, Romania and now live in the more medieval city of Sibiu, but I move around the country. I’m 30 going on 40, but my age does not reflect my personality. I prefer to be more of a child, rather than an adult… I believe artists should have a strong playful childish curios personality somewhere within, helps with creation.

CM: Did you grow up creating art? Did you ever play or experiment with other mediums of art as a child? If so, what were they and what did you focus on? Why did you begin creating art back then?

DM: Actually, I began with writing constantly, since the age of 12 and up to 23; mainly poetry. Since, I’ve only written kind of lyrical, mystical essays and fragmented ideas, material for a future book. I used to write only while listening to music and that seems to be a constant still, regarding my visual work.

CM: Why did you feel the need to begin writing and expressing yourself as a teen?

DM: The world did not make sense to me and I had this urge to say something, so I did it in writing.

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CM: You’ve worked creating computer graphics, landscape environments, music video creation, short films, writing, voice-overs, sound design…  WOW! Let’s just say you really are a creative soul and you know your stuff. We want to know your story here. What came first and why? How did you work your way through so many different mediums? Did you go to school for any of these or are you self-taught? Did you do all of these as an independent artist or did you work for someone else? What was your experience with all of these and why did you stop?

DM: I completely self-taught in all visual areas; though I did attend a 3D course in Toronto, that only filled in some gaps. Even 10 years ago, the internet was full of all the information for a serious person to be able to learn what one wanted. After college, I learned to work in 3D, mainly Autodesk Maya and Vue Infinite, in order to create surreal worlds and landscape scenes in full 3D, without backdrops or matte painting. I think that what came afterward, did so in an organic manner; for 3D was and still is full of slow render tests and although you have complete freedom for your imagination, I wanted results faster, more connected with my inner flow of vision.

And so came photography with studio work and staged sets that I constructed from natural elements and illuminated in different constructions and concepts. They resembled ikebana arrangements, tableaux vivants or something of the sort. My father helped with the LED lighting and I improvised different containers and means to hold those macro and not so macro works. Some were ephemeral… and I was working against the clock so that the small plants and flowers would not wither under my lens.

CM: If you (our reader) want to know what Ikebana Arrangements and Tableaux Vivants are, here are the results from Wikipedia: "More than simply putting flowers in a container, ikebana is a disciplined art form in which nature and humanity are brought together. ... Some arrangements may consist of only a minimal number of blooms interspersed among stalks and leaves." Google says that Tableaux Vivants are "a silent and motionless group of people arranged to represent a scene or incident."

Next, came video as a more complex way of art expression. I got into making music videos because my fiancee, who is a singer, inspired me to do so. And meanwhile, there was the "Transience" impressionist photo project, of course. With that, came my reading into studio mixing and sound design, as a means to further my visual work.

CM: When and why exactly did you pick up a camera? Do you think it was a sort of natural or organic evolution working with the mediums you previously worked with and changing into photography? Are you self-taught?

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DM: Yes, it was quite natural. From 3D graphics, you learn a lot about the proprieties of light and how light strikes and interacts with materials in the natural world. I also retained the need to construct my own fantasy worlds and translated that into photography. I first picked up a camera while in Toronto, but nature photography held too little mystery for me; I explored it through macro work and then ended up in the studio, after a year or two. I am completely self-taught, having read enough books and even more photo albums. As a reference, I also needed albums on painting and land art, Japanese art.

CM: You say that you specialize in fine art, creative photography, and impressionist photography. Tell us about these genres and how you came to focus on them rather than any other genre. What attracts you to them?

DM; Creative photography just means seeing a theme in a different way; it’s more connected to one’s inner world. Impressionist photography is another story, as a technique being concerned with rendering the world through the lens but in the form of a painting, where stroke and color are more important than fine texture and the world can change into something seemingly unreal, yet presented as a photograph. In all of this, I am interested in directing a scene, in inventing something not present in day to day reality.

CM: This is such a fantastic way of explaining the genres and what they mean to you... and of course, how you use them in photography. We truly love delving into the core of it all, into the motivations and definitions that each artist has. Thank you for sharing this with us. 

You have been working on a project for the past 5 years called “Transience” and at this point, have shot more than 80K images! You’ve traveled to different cities around the world for this project alone! Tell us about this project. What inspired you to begin? What is it about and what is it for? What’s the story? What message do you want to convey? What cities have you shot in and do you plan to keep shooting more?

DM: The intentional camera movement technique (ICM) was something I had been using even before ‘Transience’, even though I did not know it went by that name – I had been shooting water and trees abstracts. Initially, it should have been for a master’s program and the locations were only city scenes, but it soon evolved into something more complex when staged photography came in. I have taken this project to Barcelona, Rome, Paris, Bucharest, Kyoto, Venice and other small cities from Romania. No more shooting to come, for a while. :)

The characters/archetypes that populated this impressionist world are of my own making and wish to transmit the feeling of seeing things that are more from a spiritual realm. Another important message of ‘Transience’ is about the impermanence of things – hence the project name. This technique (ICM), is perfectly attuned to this because the results show the world as being made of a misty light as a basic substance, with no clear edges or fixed solidity – a changing ephemeral world that passes every moment, as in a dream.

CM: You mentioned the project, "Transience", was initially for a master's program. Tell us about this. Were you doing a master's program and then stopped?

DM: I never began the master's program. It was to be a joint program with classes in both Italy and England. I passed the interview but it did not take place for two years because of not finding enough good candidates, so I went on to make the project anyway.

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CM: What style of photography and techniques have you used to photograph this project? Tell us about your planning stages, your execution, your workflow in general? What goes through your mind when shooting an image for this project and then, what goes through your mind when sitting down to do post-production?

DM: I’ve only used ICM in this project, for almost five years, no straight photography at all. It was rather difficult. I also learned and elevated this form of camera movement. It’s all long exposure, special color filters, and ND filters, stacked all in different combos. I shoot in series and plan the shots ahead, take weather into account. I had friends to help with the role-playing and we had to travel with enough props on location and was kind of time restricted by their own personal time. Shooting landscapes or street locations was easier in the sense that I depended only on the light conditions – rain is great and the wetness of sidewalks is perfect in photographing against the sun.

CM: Dear reader, what is an ND filter, you ask? envatotuts+ says, "The filter stops light reaching the camera sensor, therefore allowing us to leave the camera with a higher aperture for a longer amount of time. Instead of changing the aperture to reduce the amount of light in the image, we simply add on a ND filter, then adjust the exposure to the amount we want."

Actually, post-production came only after 4 years! I kept gathering material and then made a large catalog database with keywords and star ratings, to be able to select the best of the best (I deleted the bad entries before the rest got into the catalog). Afterward, came the comparing and cropping, and only last year, the actual color corrections and all that… I kept seeing moved photos when I closed my eyes.

CM: What do you mean by "I kept seeing moved photos when I closed my eyes"? 

DM: It just means that I shot so many images and spent so much time in the selection process that I saw them even when I was not looking at my monitor screen. :))

CM: Your work seems very painterly, (not to overstate the obvious and be repetitive) you strive to make your photographs look like they are full of strokes from a painter, and it seems like you are influenced by old masters like Van Gogh or Monet! What other artists are you influenced by? What inspired you to make your work look this way?

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DM: I guess many things, too many to list here. All the artists, from all areas that I ever came in contact with… a lot of literature and music too. But mainly, it was my mind which wanted to see things differently – to photograph is only to see, the mechanical part is child’s play. I never wanted to photograph the real world as it is but to be a creator. Nowadays, almost everything has been photographed and in most cases, it does not suit me as a subject or there are people who do it better. Photography is just a tool… as an artist, that should not limit you.

CM: You are also creating experimental, short films for this project. Can you tell us about those?

DM: I call them ‘visual poems’. They are a meltdown of several things: impressionist photos in a visual flow (sometimes, more than one image for the same composition but with different moved light inside), my own writing, my voice as a narrator and the audio part – music, in collaboration with other artists and sound design according to location and theme (my doing as well). They are not "film" (maybe experimental), not stop-motion photography, maybe more akin to video art. Each one brings something new in technique and is different in sound from the last. At present, there are two available, An Artist’s Journey (Barcelona, city of Gaudi), and Light and Shadow (Bucharest city walk). Two more are in production now, with images from Sibiu – Innocence of Winter and Kyoto – Zen Tale – those will feature special effects as well.

CM: Tell us about the Moondash Project!

DM: It’s been online since 2005, I think. It has evolved both technically and spiritually, alongside with me. Professionally, it has passed the 10-year span for things to be at a pro level, I hope so, at least. I design my own page. There is a lot of material, so people should have patience and the need for discovery. The site has now two parts, Moondash Home and Transience Home, because of the project ‘Transience’ being so large – it is only partly published online now. Actually, "Moondash" was to be the name of the list of items I would take when I went around the world in a motor-home, but that did not happen… so, it became the name of the site which holds all my art.

CM: We took a look at some of the 3D images on your website. Can you tell us about those? They are so intricate and beautiful!

DM: The ‘Hidden People’ series is the most detailed. The vegetation is made in Maya, while the terrain/building structure is a fractal mesh generated by another special software. After the final render, they are digitally hand painted to remove the ‘mechanical clean look’. It’s the only series I did that for. I also recommend the ‘Organic Gates’ series, created with the same workflow, using the PaintFx system inside Maya. I have always liked the organic, ruined look of a scene, where nature covers everything and reclaims what people left behind – I’m a great fan of Studio Ghibli, for inspiration! :)

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CM: We truly love the short film/music video titled “Kites and Butterflies”. Can you talk to us about this particular project? 

DM: It’s filmed in Venice, during the carnival, and in winter in the town of Sibiu, where I live now. As with other videos, it was a two-man team – me and the singer, Iulia Em. I did all the filming (steady cam shots also), editing and shot planning. We had a bit of luck with the opening bridge sequence, to be able to catch that small parade just then and there – a lucky star smiled. We also had one masked costume participate in one scene. Venice is dreamy in mist more than in sunshine. This video has some special effects used to blend two different worlds – that of a dream, in Venice, with that of silence, of serenity, in the winter snow. I also worked a lot in coloring and filming, with the fisheye lens on steady cam was tricky as well. It will always remain a special memory and it’s a beautifully sad song about the lost innocence of each of us and of time never going back...

A fantasy music video, placed in two opposite but connected worlds, the story of a journey between them, to find your true self and where you belong to. I am happy that I can share one of the most meaningful songs from the 'Eyes Closed' album, with you...

CM: Tell us about the images for the “Spirit Archetypes”. These are fabulous as well! What’s the story behind these?

DM: Those are some of the most complicated and unique images from the project. I had to make most of the clothing, masks and other props myself – such as wings for the angels, and improvise to get the results I wanted. One of the ideas was that with base, cheap materials, one can achieve spectacular effects because of the way that this technique transforms and blends light and color. A kind of alchemic transformation. I also used leaves and flowers to cover some of the masks. Most character portraits were shot in natural locations because they fit there better than they did inside the city.

CM: It seems there is a lot of psychology and magic or spirituality in your work. Can you tell us about these themes? Why do you choose to work with these? I’m sure it probably has a lot to do with the overall message you want to convey as an artist!

DM: Yes, that is correct. I want to convey a sense of magic, of wonder, of ‘is that really a photograph’? People get too used to this world and to what we are told reality is, and no longer question what is really behind it, besides science, what does all of this represent? So, I guess that I am guided by this personal search which, in fact, is the most basic thing for most and all individuals of the human race, I hope.

CM: Oh, we hope so too! It's such an important and basic topic (as you say), yet so unknown to so many people! 

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 You’ve won many awards for your work! Tell us about these experiences and which of them are you most proud of?

DM: Hm, I’m not that proud of it and still have a long way to go. I started my ‘visual career’ quite late and now there is this boom in photography and so many photographers out there… it’s more and more difficult to get important awards on the international scene nowadays… I guess you have work and create, regardless of if it happens or not. I’m also not part of the mainstream with my subjects and technique, always niche or underground. I think out of all previous awards, getting third place in the fine art category/book at the International Photo Awards was the most important, but it’s all relative too.

CM: You’ve also been published in many different websites and magazines. Tell us about these experiences.

DM: Also, even if I did, over time, I still have way more to go to reach the highest level. Recently, I have been published in Dodho Magazine and Silvershotz Magazine, both contemporary photography magazines with beautiful content and of high quality, so that matters to me on a personal level as well. Most of it is online.

CM: You also have different series. The Sparkle Series, The Magic of Venice Series, and The Dream Portrait Series! What are the messages you want to put out into the world with these?

DM: Well, I’ve talked about the ‘Dream Portraits’ series at a previous question. The Magic of Venice is the series with the characters photographed in Venice city during the carnival… and also, the canals I made to look as watercolor pastels. ‘The Sparkle Series’ is quite special, staged photography as well, but the protagonist wears a special suit and that holds a secret – the result is a series where light is the main actor and the images depict dynamic light sculptures, with light streaks and particles following the motion of the persona. Some are into the abstract, as well.

CM: Knowing that you like to write and reading through your answers, website, and documents, I can tell that you write beautifully. You seem to be inspired and full of magic and wonder. What a beautiful thing this is! Congratulations! I take note of this as I, too, love writing. It is such a wonderful way of expressing oneself. Out of all the ways that YOU express yourself, out of all the mediums you use to speak with the world… which is your favorite and why?

DM: Thank you. In this day and age, unfortunately, few people take the time to read the poetic text from a website focused more on visual art… I don’t know which my favorite medium is – I think writing is the most linked to my mind and more direct than an image, the flow from my thoughts to my pen. Music would be even more direct, but I’m only at the beginning of exploring that. The image is more abstract and should not be deconstructed. I think film is the most complete and only interactive VR (virtual reality) will top that. :)

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CM: Are there any other projects that you have worked on and would like to share with us? Which has been your favorite thus far? Are you planning any new projects for the future? If so, can you tell us about them?

DM: Well, there will be future visual poems. I’m working on the next two right now, with beautiful soundtracks as well. I’m also interested in interactive forms of art and have started software development as a tool for artists, but that will still take more time to complete.

CM: That sounds fantastic and truly wakes up our curiosity! Looking forward to seeing these upcoming projects.

What do you plan to do with your series? Are you or will you be selling your art? If so, tell us all the details so that we can share with our audience!

DM: I may sell it in exhibition. Also, I am searching for a publishing house for a fine art photo album with a series or about the whole project. There are the visual poems for video projection in festivals, be it of digital art or photography.

CM: Have you or will you exhibit any of your work? What? When? Where? Details, please! 😊

DM: Since the beginning of Transience, around 2013, I have decided not to exhibit for a while. Now that the project is in the final stages of completion, I’m ready for print tests and searching for locations for exhibitions but at first, that will probably be in my own country and then abroad, be it in a group or personal exhibitions. So, no details yet.

CM: What is your biggest motivation as an artist? What inspires you to keep going? Also, are you solely an artist or do you do other things besides art?

DM: For a while now, more than 10 years, solely an artist. I make something in the hope of making art, for two reasons. First, to convey a message of enlightenment and wonder. Second, because I’m not a wizard and can’t do a true magic spell. If I could, I’d probably stop.

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CM: Made me smile! If you go to wizard school, invite me to join because I will drop everything and go! Wizardry would make reaching our goals so much easier!

How does art fit into your daily life? What is a day in the life of Daniel Munteanu?

DM: Depends on the day. Lots of work. Too many ideas sometimes. Don’t like cars, to see or drive them, only outside the city, perhaps. More work, short walk to get some air. Christmas at home with my parents. Reading before sleep. Fearing death, sometimes. Never giving up on my work. Sometimes, going to a quiet place inside nature.

CM: Is there anything else that you would like to share with our audience and artists?

DM: Visit my page, try to give it some time, see what it’s really about.

CM: What is the biggest piece of advice that you would like to share with other photographers or artists that want to embark on a similar journey to yours? What would you have loved to know when you started?

DM: It’s a lot of work. Do it for yourselves and don’t expect much. The world is bigger than you think. Also, most people don’t think that art should be spiritual. So, if your art has this component deep inside, prepare for a hard, long journey, never-ending. Even if you want to succeed, remember there are things even more important. Try to make something new and do it out of passion and not some other reason.

CM: Daniel! Thank you! Thank you very much for sitting down with us and answering these burning questions! We love knowing what makes you, you (as an artist anyway) and why you create the art that you create! You are an artist with a true message. Sometimes, it is hard to find artists who do true storytelling with their work. We are HONORED to feature you and your work. 

STILL WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT DANIEL AND SEE HIS COMPLETE COLLECTION OF WORKS THAT HAS BEEN SHARED ONLINE? YOU CAN FIND MORE MARVELOUS IMAGES AND ALL OF THE DETAILS THAT YOU DIDN'T GET FROM US ON HIS WEBSITE. YOU'VE TAKEN THE TIME TO SIT WITH US AND READ THIS FANTASTIC PROFILE, SO TAKE SOME EXTRA TIME AND VISIT HIS ONLINE HOME!

YOU CAN ALSO FIND DANIEL'S WORK HERE:

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