For 15 years, Cosmin Bumbuț worked as a fashion and advertising photographer for Elle, Marie Claire, Harpers Bazaar, Esquire and brands such as Coca-Cola, Marriott Hotels, Mercedes-Benz. At the age of 40, he decided to work only on the subjects he enjoyed most – photo essays about real people, who have impressive stories and an important message to spread. In December 2013, he moved into a camper together with journalist Elena Stancu and started travelling around Romania in order to work on long-form journalism projects. They tell extensive stories about today Romania through images and words on teleleu.eu,.
Also known for his Last 100 Polaroids project, amongst many other photographic work and documentation, Bumbuț will exhibit a small part of his instant film collection, shot on original Polaroid film, at EMOTION IN MOTION.
Interview by Cătălina Miciu
Have you still got the 100 polaroids that you mention on your website?
Not anymore. Once I found them, I decided to shoot them all, however only around 50-60 pictures turned out successful, the rest are gone for various reasons. One or two cartridges (a cartridge has 10 papers) got messed up since they were very old – expired in 2008-2009. If you don’t manage to pull out from the cassette the first picture, you lose them all. In other cases I mistook the exposure – my camera is 100% manual thus without a light meter and without the possibility to measure light accordingly even half a second can damage the entire process. It’s a chemical balance. I threw away all the pictures that turned bad. And then there are the polaroids I offered as gifts – there was a time when I shot some portraits on instant film, including Mircea Cărtărescu and Alexandru Tomescu. I’m out of film now.
Do you still have the camera?
I do. It was pretty expensive when I bought it. I also have some instant Fuji peel off FP 3000B films, which I used for a few images. When I left with my trailer, I took the camera with me, along with some polaroids I shot along the road. I briefly recall that the second postcard I sent, 3 years ago, when we had few subscribers (around 10), was a Polaroid. It was taken at 2 Mai.
Speaking of which, you send postcards to subscribers of teleleu.eu twice every month. How does printed and enveloped photography feel?
To me there’s no surprise to hold a printed photograph, it feels unconceivable to see it otherwise. As I print many pictures each month – all the postcards and also images that are dear to me – I sometimes glue them to the car if I have enough room for them. Right now I experience a very tactile sensation; although they are small, I find it hard to imagine that it would be impossible for anyone to print photos. I refuse that thought. I look a lot at photographs on my phone, but I print even those. I’m not surprised anymore by those moments when I hold a printed image in my hand, this is so common for me that it feels like browsing my cell phone. Perhaps for other photographers who only see this kind of work on a computer screen or display it is different, but I’m no longer surprised by the print feeling.
Since the trailer gives you limited space, which camera do you carry with you?
I currently have 2 cameras with me – the one I shoot with and the other, which I use for filming once in a while. But since we moved in the trailer I also took the film camera, the Polaroid and my other 2 digital cameras. I gave up the film camera eventually, even though in the beginning I was stoked with it. There was no way to develop the film on the road, to scan or to use it for postcards thus I abandoned the idea. I suppose I wanted to avoid wasting my bullets on a camera that did not allow me to use printed work afterwards. I think it’s been 3 years since that moment.
And lately you’ve been shooting with your phone a lot.
True, I’ve started last year, when I went to Koci Hernandez’s workshop. I then realized the way and iPhone works and how old and slow was my former Android phone – it was so damn slow I could’ve never achieved the results Koci had, thus I decided I should invest in an iPhone. Which I did.
How does a casual day on the road go? Do you often stop to take photographs?
There are times when I see something and I’m either too lazy to stop this 3 ton animal (van) or, if I have another car behind me I’d always rather go than stay. Otherwise if I’m chill and nothing pushes me, I casually stop on the side of the road to shoot. Now we’re in Alba Iulia, driving here I stopped to shoot a van that a friend wants to buy. Normally when the drive is longer I stop less often, because it’s stressful to think about finding a parking lot and so on. On a short ride, I usually stop here and there.
Do you remember your first Polaroid?
Yeah, we haven’t moved in the trailer yet and I photographed our former dog – Laica. That was one of my first images and it will be in the show.
How many photos are you showcasing?
Where do you collect your inspiration from? What do you seek for? How does your mind work in order to see a picture?
It’s pretty geometric right now. I look for many different connections between lines, shapes and all that, but I’m actually looking for stories. I don’t have a recipe. Today for instance, I strolled through Alba Iulia and I noticed some drunkards in a bar; I was fascinated. Unfortunately I only had my phone with me and the battery went off, so I realized I should buy a safety battery. Sometimes I get caught in moments like people drinking on a terrace, I get surprised by the way light falls, I don’t know. I photograph many things but I admit – I’m always keen on portraits. If I see a human face that appeals to me, I stare at them for longer than not and I eventually ask to take their picture. I might seem loony with that gaze on my face, but it means the person is essentially photogenic.
What is the background music of your favourite photograph (that you took)?
I have no particular favourite photo. I take them, and then I show them. If I had such photo, I’d stop looking for a better and a more surprising new one. I’d probably stay at home and stop photographing at all. Regarding the music, I have moods and swings. I can listen to the same band for weeks in a row and then approach another. The last time I listened to Marilyn Manson, then Jimmy Hendrix and now Iggy Pop. I’ve been listening to Iggy Pop non stop since yesterday, all the albums. When I made Transit, I know for sure – in ’96 – I listened to a lot of ACDC and Iron Maiden.
Photographers we should follow?
I don’t really look for photographers’ work lately – I rather read and watch documentaries, but I’ve recently set my eyes on a young and Magnum freshman, Michael Christopher Brown, whom I deeply admire. I read online that he went to an African country, got his camera broken and took all his images with his phone, to finally end up putting them in a book. I follow his Instagram religiously.
What are you and Elena currently working at?
We’re getting a well deserved rest in Alba Iulia after a week in Bucharest. Elena should finish a story – we documented two stories in June/July, she wrote the first and now finishes the second. After that, we’ll move on to Mureș, for the next piece. We basically live and do office work in a yard, where I sometimes pick images and organize my hard disks.
Cătălina Miciu is the guardian angel at teleleu.eu.