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Marcel Cristocea : Creative Lighting for People Stories

Editor Marius Cinteză

“I am trying to work more and more with the people I feel a connection with, and we have fun working together. When you find the right TEAM and you trust each other, that’s when amazing things will start happening! – Marcel Cristocea”

Marcel Cristocea is a fashion and people photographer based in Montreal. He’s originally from Constanta (Romania) and he discovered photography at the age of 22. Although initially he experimented other genres of photography, in time he discovered that photographing people was most rewarding.

Marcel believes that great photography is a TEAM effort, strongly connecting the photographer to the people taking part in the photo session.
His works have been published in Papercut Magazine,, Vulkan Magazine, Piction Magazine, Elegant Magazine, Ellements Magazine, Estela Magazine, Fantastics Magazine and many more.

Please join me in discovering more about Marcel Cristocea - the man behind the camera in the interview below!


'Saint Jéromine'


 Marcel, first I would like to thank you so much for taking your time to answer my questions! To begin, please introduce yourself shortly and tell us more about you, your hobbies or other projects you are involved in!
Thank you so much for this opportunity. I will keep it really short; I am a portrait and fashion photographer based in Montreal. I love photography, I love to listen to audiobooks while I retouch images, I love martial arts, I love learning new things and I have two cats that wake me up really early each morning :-). It is a little bit harder nowadays to work on commercial projects, so I decided to focus on my creative work. I am obsessed with the baroque era and now I am working on some photo projects inspired by that era.


'Persephone’s secret garden'


 For many of us photography is either a hobby or a way of life. How would you define your relationship with photography?
I would say it is like an obsession for me. I really love photography and I cannot stop. I am not doing it full time now; I am also a web developer, but most of my free time is dedicated to photography.


'Fish out of water'


 What would be the most important experience so far that has influenced your steps in photography?
The most important experience was when I realized for the first time that I love photographing people. At the beginning I was experimenting with all types of photography, landscape, street, macro and when I did my first portrait session I actually felt that something clicked inside me. I slowly realized that I love the creative process, I love working with creative people, so I moved slowly to portrait and fashion.


'Fish out of water'


 You discovered photography at the age of 22. But when have you realized that you would like to follow a career in photography?
Everything changed when I got my first flash. I was fascinated by how I can create a different mood just by using a light source. When I was a kid I liked to daydream a lot and I felt that by using a light source I can bring my concepts to life. So, I started on a long journey to experiment and learn how I can control light and how I can use it in my projects.




 How do you maintain and grow your passion for photography?
It depends, right now I am obsessed with the baroque era, as I mentioned before, and I am implementing that in my work. I am trying to come up with some unique projects inspired by this era, or  I am trying to recreate some paintings I like with a new twist. I think I did at least 10-15 photoshoots only to experiment with different lighting patterns and to see how I can create a beautiful and cinematic chiaroscuro effect for my portraits. When I will feel really confident with it and I know that I did my best with it I will move to something else, I think I want to do a future study about colour and how I can integrate in my work. That is how I grow my passion for photography, every 3 to 6 months I pick a new area that I want to learn and experiment with, it is a never-ending journey!




 Can you please describe in a few words your photographer philosophy and mission?
This is a very good question! Right now I am trying to listen to my inner voice, I am learning how I can express myself in an authentic way and how I can reach my creative potential. Coming from an ex-communist country where you were not encouraged to express yourself freely, I find it hard to express myself and I am not comfortable with it.  So, I am searching for ways I can do it freely and authentically.

I have a simple mission: to do better after each photoshoot. I do this exercise after each project where I look at the final images and I am trying to understand if it is something I want to pursue further, or if it’s not representative for me and I shouldn’t do it again. I recommend it to everyone, it is a good exercise that will keep you on your path, and it will help you understand what you really love to shoot.




 You are of the opinion that great photography is a team effort. How do you manage to build the best-connected team for your photos?
I suggest you start doing test shoots with different models, makeup artists, hair stylists and at some point you will feel a connection with some of them. I am trying to work more and more with the people I feel a connection with, and we have fun working together. When you find the right TEAM and you trust each other, that’s when amazing things will start happening!




 People and fashion photography are in your area of interest. What are the main challenges for these genres of photography?
I think finding the right model for your concept is the hardest thing. Especially if you want to do a moody portrait for example and you want to focus on emotions then you need to find the model that fits your concept and also make sure that she/he can showcase those emotions. Another thing that is important I think is to add something personal to that shoot. There are so many images created these days that it is harder to create something unique; but at least we can add something personal, even if it is the lighting setup you use, the retouching or something else that gives a different flare to your images and makes it more personal.


Persephone’s secret garden'


 The success of model shooting sessions depends heavily on the model skills, on one hand, but also on your “stage director” skills, on the other hand. How do you manage to successfully communicate with the models, to make them fit in your story and to get most of the mood from their performance in front of the cameras?
I am taking full responsibility for my shoots. What I mean by that is that if a model is just starting up and doesn’t know exactly what to do, I am helping her. I learned over the years different poses and I have my own routine right now. In terms of mood and expressions it is a little bit harder; I find it easier if you create a character or a situation that they can relate to, similar to playing in a movie.


'Persephone’s secret garden'


 Can you please tell us something more about your workflow for fashion photography?
As you mentioned before I strongly believe in TEAM wok. For example, let’s say I have an idea for a beauty shot, I will first start talking with the makeup up artist I want to work with for that project. I will prepare a mood board, find some inspirational images or sometimes I will write some words that describe the project and I will present the project to the makeup artist. After that we will probably go back and forth until we have a clear concept, and we will start looking for the right model for our shoot.




What do you think it takes to make remarkable fashion works today? What is the future of fashion photography in your opinion?
This is something I am struggling with too, but I think the answer is inside us. We have to listen to what makes us unique, we have to find the inspiration in the experiences we lived and try to showcase it in our photography work. In my opinion the fashion photography and the photography field in general is evolving everyday very fast. It is really easy to learn, to see what other people are doing and to share images online. Considering that we all have access to all the information we want, the thing that makes us unique is how we use that information. That’s why expressing our own vision is important! I don’t know what the future of fashion photography will be like, but I am sure that photographers and artists with a unique vision will definitely influence it.


'Persephone’s secret garden'


 I have noticed the mood and the special light in your works! How important are these elements in creating a visual story? What is the lighting setup you prefer for your shooting sessions?
I love lighting, it is one the things that attracts me the most. I am always fascinated how you can change the mood and the feeling by controlling light in an image, plus it gives you numerous ways to express your concepts. It depends what I am shooting but for my personal project I am experimenting now with only one light setup. I use a harsh light, actually I use a Fresnel adapter on a Godox light and I am experimenting a lot with the shadows. I am using the shadows to create drama in my images and to create the right mood for that portrait.


'Fish out of water'


 Where do you look for to find inspiration for your works? What inspires you?
It depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to see more fashion work, usually editorials, so I will probably look on www.fashiongonerogue.com  or I might spend time on,, or different photography websites.  I can also spend hours just watching YouTube videos about paintings and art.




 What is more important to you, the mood/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
I would say the mood/story are the most important things for me. It happened to me many times to have the perfect technical picture but the model expression was not right, or the mood was not there, so I would choose the image that has the right mood even if it is not so good technically. I usually try to feel if the image speaks to me when I make my selection.


'The Mask Of Hidden Feelings'


 Marcel, I have noticed that your portfolio is almost exclusively full of colour works. Why do you prefer to express yourself in this manner?
I love black and white too, and it is something I did a lot in the past 6 months. I tend to do more colour work because I love to colour tone my images and it is something that is part of my workflow. Before I start shooting I am already thinking what colour toning might work for that project. I am also working on a few black and white projects. I rarely change my mind, if at the beginning of a photoshoot I think that project should be in colour then that is how I will do it. I have to admit that I will probably do a black and white version of some images, but in the end I will choose the colour version. It is very rare that a project that I start in colour will end up in black and white. It might happen but it is very rare.




 Many are of the opinion that the gear is not very important when the passion for photography is strong. However, can you please share with us what gear do you use (camera, lenses, lighting, etc.)?
That is something I struggled with for a very long time, I thought the gear is very important, but I don’t think that is the case anymore. For me, it depends on what is the purpose of that photoshoot. If I am doing a commercial job I will use the best gear I have. On the other hand, for the past 4-5 months I used only one continuous light, a GODOX SL60W with which I created so many beautiful projects that were actually approved on 1x and other websites. In terms of camera and lenses I use a Sony A7RIII with a Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 and Batis 85mm f1.8. If you are working for yourself, I don’t think gear is that important. Most cameras nowadays produce a very good result, I think creativity and how you express your ideas are more important.




 You have been a member of 1x community since 2017. Where did you first learn about 1x and what did you feel when you have got your first photo published?
I think I first learned about 1x from a friend about 10 years ago. I looked at the website and all the images that were published and I thought to myself that I will never get any image approved. This year I was talking to my friend Elena Raceala and she encouraged me to start posting images. Soon I started having images approved which made me try me to post more and more. I have to give credit to Elena for this!




 Who are your favourite photographers or mentors whose works have influenced you and your photography?
There are many photographers, painters and different artists that inspire me. If I had to mention a few I would mention: Peter Lindbergh, Helmut Newton, Steven Maisel, David LaChapelle, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Lara Jade. I would also like to mention Caravaggio, Salvador Dali, Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh and many more.


'The Mask Of Hidden Feelings'


Usually, the photographers have their own favourite piece of work. Can you please shortly present your favourite photo, the story behind it and explain why it is special to you?
It is really hard to select only one image. I have a lot of favourite images. I am going to tell you a story about some of my images. I haven’t published the images, but the feeling I got after I did that photoshoot was the best feeling I got so far in photography.

Some time ago, I think 7-8 years ago I did a project in a prison back in Romania, I wanted to do some portraits with some inmates. I took two lights with me, one camera and one lens and I went to the prison. After all the screening I went inside and I met with some inmates. We talked for a while and I was allowed to do a setup in one of the rooms there.  At the beginning they were really shy, but as soon as they started to see the images things started to loosen up a little bit and I think I photographed around 20 people. I really wanted them to see the final result, so I printed the images and after a few weeks I sent them the pictures. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it in person, but the person that delivered the prints told me how happy they were and most of them sent the pictures back to their families. It was a great feeling knowing that what I did helped them, and they had something to share with their loved ones. Now that I think about it I think I should do more projects like this one. It is definitely something I should consider more.




We almost reach the end of this interview and I would kindly ask you to share with us your plans or photographic projects you would like to be involved in.
Actually, I am working on a few projects right now. What I can say is that I am moving towards the fine art area. I have some concepts that I want to do and I am focusing all my energy on this. I can tell you about the project I am doing with Mélanie Dupuis, you can see a few black and white images on 1x with her. We are experimenting with different ways we can showcase the human body with the help of a very dramatic lighting. It is a very interesting project; it is a study we are doing to see how we can showcase the human body in a different way.

Thank you so much for this opportunity and I can’t wait to talk to you again!





'Fish out of Water'



'Muna & Sarah'



'Painted Pink'






'Silent victims'


My compliments, Marcel, you have my admiration!
Thank you so much, Giovanni! I really appreciate it!
Excellent pictures Marcel. My compliments
Thank you so much, Vito!
Great interview. Your portraits are so classic and artistic.... and inspirational.
Thank you so much Liu!
Intrigerende foto's van een boeiende fotograaf.
Thanks, Lus!
Great article, impressive work!
Thank you, Lydia, I really appreciate it.
Wonderful use of light and portrait work!
Thanks Jacob! I am happy you like my work.
Great Marcel!!!!
Thank you so much Carlo!
Congratulation to both of you! Excellent interview, Marius, and Marcel, your work is absolutely amazing!
Thank you, Elena! :-)
Thanks Elena!
Thanks for letting us discover the talented photographer Marcel is, Marius. Big congratulations to Marcel. So grateful to publish this interview and your wonderful work, my friend!!!
Thank you so much, dear Yvette! :-)
Thank you so much, Yvette and Marius, for this opportunity. I am really honored to be featured on 1x. Cheers!
Thank you Massimo!