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Denis Malciu : Uncovered face of life on the streets

by Editor Marius Cinteză
Edited and published by Yvette Depaepe, the 8th of April 2022 


“I think that both the people and the occurrences of everyday life offer us a broad range of subjects. Sometimes I see something special in them, something different that deserves to be ‘saved’ from the mundane and shared with the others.” – Denis Malciu


Denis Malciu is an enthusiastic street photographer located in Bucharest (Romania) who documents the street life and its people and aims to see beyond the conventional, masked attitudes and expressions, thus revealing the inner, pure part of the street life emotions. Winner of multiple editions of “I SHOOT IT” contest, he practices candid street photography and he prefers to blend into the street landscape unobtrusively to capture people’s moments without any social masks, only alone with their strengths and vulnerabilities. Join me in discovering more about Denis and be inspired by his amazing street portfolio in the interview below!


'Black and white'


Denis, please introduce yourself shortly and tell us more about you, your hobbies or other projects you are involved in!

Not much to say... first of all, I am an amateur photographer and I see photography in the realm of art, so I didn't try to turn it into a profession, because I cherish the freedom to choose the subjects of my photos and to bring my own ideas to life. I have projects about what I capture on camera and projects related to showcasing my photos, through my own site and in other ways (other sites, social media, participation in contests, etc.). As it turns out, the project of exhibiting my photos in the 1x community has borne fruit, my ‘work’ has become more ‘visible’ - I think that's the only way I had the opportunity to capture your attention, which matters to me and for which I thank you!




When have you realized that you would like to start your journey in photography?

Back in 2012, when I decided to take an introductory course in photography, as a result of which I became a licensed professional photographer. But it wasn't until a few years later that I realized the importance of the subject for photography and that I have to find within myself what truly interests me and what topics I resonate with. "Because creative power can only be sought and found in yourself", as Andreas Feininger said. That's how I embraced street photography, certain types of subjects and a certain approach. It was neither a course, nor a book that helped me in this sense, but the discussions with an artist-photographer, Hajdu Tamás, well-known in the community 1x – you interviewed him a while back.


'The Watchers'


How would you define your relationship with the photography? How important is photography for you?

Our activities should be the way in which we cultivate our innate possibilities that would otherwise remain dormant. Through them, we practically get to know ourselves and ‘develop’ – to use a photography-related term – what is inside. I think the need to produce something artistic turned my attention to photography. At first it was just a means of self-expression – I was not really interested in the subjects I was dealing with. Then I grew fond of certain subjects and topics: types of people, conditions, streets, places, etc., I wanted to be able to capture all this and share them with others. So now I could say that, thanks to photography, I know myself to some extent, I know the outside world somewhat and I communicate with it to a certain extent.


'Failed Date'


What would be the most important experience so far that has influenced your steps in photography?

When I first had the chance to witness three things ‘lining up’: to see something special, worth shooting, to be in the right position and to trigger at the ‘decisive moment’. This experience that ‘fate is smiling’, that ‘the stars line up’ is as rare as it is intense, so that I feel the urge to grab my camera and take to the streets, in a bid to relive it.


'Going nowhere'


How do you maintain and grow your passion for street photography? What motivates and inspires you?

I think that both the people and the occurrences of everyday life offer us a broad range of subjects. Sometimes I see something special in them, something different that deserves to be ‘saved’ from the mundane and shared with the others. This prompts me to think of a strategy to take my camera along as often as possible and make sure I have time to shoot. So, I think it is not the passion that poses challenges, but rather managing the time and carrying the camera.


'Premium Larger'


What makes you so drawn to the candid street photography?

I am most interested in people-related topics and most of the time I would like to capture something that comes from within. However, it is not easy, because in public we wear a social ‘mask’, a set of conventional expressions. Nevertheless, there are times when we take off our ‘mask’: in case of strong emotions or when we think nobody is watching. When assuming that no one is around, we muse, we look inside – at that precise moment I would like to take a snapshot.


'Strange mood'


What do you think is the main challenge in street photography?

Keeping a low profile, flying under the radar, being undetectable when taking pictures, so that the others do not notice that I am paying attention to what is happening around me, for the reasons shown above. It is important for me to capture the real us when we think we are alone with ourselves. I think that is one of the less developed possibilities of photography. ‘Posing’ has come to mean adopting a conventional attitude, purely on the outside – it means how we want to be viewed and not how we are. But photography can also depict us when we don't ‘pose’.


'Movie mood'


What would be your most important advice to aspiring street photographers?

I see street photography as a form of art. So, from my point of view, the up-and-comer should, above all, be artistically endowed, with some sort of fine arts common sense. But artists tend to take pictures in order to talk about themselves first and foremost, not about the subject. And I don't think that is enough in street photography. Street photography is valuable for its documentary side too. Therefore, a second condition, in my opinion, is that aspiring photographers should be truly concerned with certain types of subjects, in such a manner that these subjects take center stage while photographers recede into the background, but at the same preserving their own vision.


'Emotional hug'


What secret ingredients make a street photography remarkable?

There is nothing that really helps us, other than what we find in ourselves. The composition is considered by many to be a key to success in photography, with ‘rules’ that, if followed, will automatically lead to valuable snapshots. This is a misconception about composition, because it is seen as having value in itself. In reality, "good composition is only the strongest way of seeing the subject" (Edward Weston). So, composition depends on the subject and the subject depends on us: we choose the subject (with our culture, our artistic emotion at play here) and it's up to us how ‘strongly’ we see it (this implies our spirit of observation, our plastic sense). If there is a secret, then it is to get to know ourselves and our subjects as well as possible.


'The Florist Lady'     


Can you please walk us through your workflow on the street?

When we see someone with a camera, the obvious inference is they have come to take pictures. I try to ‘reassure’ people through various methods. Because, as I said before, I want to capture something genuine, not someone ‘posing’ or having another conventional attitude.

I have been working on a few projects that involve a certain location or context. For example, a project related to a tram in Bucharest, Tram 41: I board the tram and take pictures inside or in some stops. Also, a project with people sitting on benches, for which I mostly shoot in parks.

But even when I go out with my camera without a particular project in mind, I head to the streets where I hope to come across the typologies that impress me under certain aspects. For instance, I find senior citizens more expressive, because I see in some of them the ‘traces’ of surviving the communist period, then the ‘transition’ period. Besides, they convey a feeling of ‘hardships of life’, which impresses me more than the meaningless joy that young people exhibit in almost all social media pictures.


'Not easy to live'


How do you manage to avoid clichés in your street photography?

I don't know if I do, because clichés, ‘so what’ images, imitations, are a real danger. I try to photograph subjects that truly mean something to me, and not because they are ‘fashionable’ or ‘successful’. I try to shoot when the subject I care about really tells me something, and not just because I see in it the famous elements of composition (‘third’, ‘diagonals’, ‘guidelines’, ‘triangles’, ‘patterns’, ‘shadows’, ‘contrasts’, etc.). I say ‘famous’ because they are regarded in many photo books as ‘magical’ elements that automatically lead to successful pictures, no matter what. I think that such books, courses, discussions about photography, which boast successful compositional ‘recipes’, actually encourage us to imitate and prevent us from discovering our true creative power within. That is why I think it is important to read quality photo books, written by artists themselves and not by imitators. And I think it's important to talk about photography and about our photos with real artists, because they know best to distinguish between original and imitation. I said at the beginning that such discussions helped me and I mentioned a name, and now I will mention the second one that mattered to me - Mr. Dinu Lazăr, a photographer known to many readers in Romania.


'Old and fragile'


Can you please share with us what is the gear you use on the street (camera, lenses, etc.)?

I also have a passion for what we call IQ and I don't brag about it, I really hope to get rid of it… So, I use a camera with a Full Frame sensor, something atypical for street photography aficionados. But it is the smallest FF on the market, the Sony A7C. Along with Sony_Zeiss 35mm f2.8, a lens I've been using for 6 years, this camera forms a compact and unobtrusive system. Not as unobtrusive as a Ricoh GR III… but with a good balance between camera size and image quality. My passion for IQ also prompted a small obsession with Leica lenses... so, I also use a Leica Summicron-M 50mm f2 lens (almost as often as Sony 35mm) and a Leica Summarit-M 90mm f2.5 lens (very rarely), with the Techart adapter, which allows me to use AF.


'Art and …bananas'


Denis, you won several contests organized by I SHOT IT. What does this mean for you and your career and how this influenced your artistic vision?

At first, I SHOT IT offered Leica cameras as prizes, and I wanted a Leica M Monochrom… I should have won 1st place in the Black-And-White Photo Competition. I failed, I was close, 2nd place in 2018. Instead, I won the Street Photo Competition with a Leica X camera as a prize… (followed by three other competitions). I think that, for amateur photographers, ‘career’ means getting as much exposure as possible for their photos, having pictures or projects showcased in major magazines, newspapers, galleries or websites. Photo contests and winning them can help us get more exposure. It's just that I SHOT IT doesn't promote the winning photos and the works of the winning photographers, as other companies do (e.g. LensCulture). But, beyond any benefits, it was a great joy to see photos of mine chosen by a quality jury for first place, all the more so that I can see the other photos submitted and many of them impressed me every time.




What would be your favorite photo from the last years? Please share with us the story behind.

It's hard for me to make selections, that's why I can’t even compile a portfolio of my entire work; I prefer to work on series, around certain topics. I guess the favorite could be a photo published on, which is part of a project I mentioned earlier, related to people taking a slightly atypical tram in Bucharest, tram no. 41. In addition, I think it illustrates what I said earlier about candid street photography and my attempt to capture the moment of delving into one’s own thoughts. And it also illustrates the special rendering of the Leica Summicron-M 50mm…




Who are your favorite photographers or mentors who have influenced you and your photography?

I like almost all the street photographers at Magnum… But I think mainly Alex Webb: his photographs are the ideal combination of memorable documentary elements and purely artistic ones, of great spontaneity and originality. But I can't say that Alex Webb influences me, for two reasons: it's impossible for me to be that good, to see in a scene so many interesting elements that combine so well, and besides, I think I'm more inclined towards a style closer to classic street photography. Speaking of classic, I am really fond of Fred Herzog's photographs, for their documentary nature, for the simple fact that I can see people, streets, cafés, barbershops from the '50s,' 60s in exquisite chromatics and, of course, for all their artistic charm. The same goes for Vivian Maier. I would also like to mention Willy Spiller, especially for the series of photos depicting New York streets and subway between 1977-1984 – it illustrates so well that the beauty of street photography has two sources: artistic talent and documentary character. From Romania, in terms of street photography, I like Silviu Gheție the most – he has simply brilliant street photos and I invite the readers who don't know him to look for his photos on the internet and I'm sure they will be stunned. And Hajdu Tamás in the field of fine art urban landscape, with some accents of street photography.


'Angel by day'


Now, since we almost reached the end of this interview, I would kindly ask you to share with us your plans or photographic projects you would like to involve in the future.

I would like to document what has been preserved in Bucharest from the old trades. While strolling with the camera, I also stumbled upon old footwear, tailoring and upholstery workshops, not to mention horologists’ workshops – all of them have that scent of the past, with the people working there and their customers alike being real ‘characters’. Let me give you just one example: on Traian street, there is an old shop making eiderdowns…I guess younger readers are not even familiar with this word. I also intend to upload the completed projects onto my personal site and have it better promoted. And, of course, I will continue to send photos to the curators of 1x, hoping they will be published. I said earlier that I can't seem to manage to compile a portfolio of my own, but come to think of it, I guess it is safe to assume that it already exists: it's my 1x account, with the upside that those photos have come under the scrutiny of a jury as well. I would recommend myself to anyone through my 1x portfolio!


'Thinking about loneliness'



'Waiting for the Train'



'About Freemasonry and everything...'



'Tasting a beer..'



'Gossiping Grandmas'



'A show with heels'



'Desolation in Subway'






'The popcorn wizard'


Great work! I really like them. Congratulations Denis.
Thank you very much, Emel! I am honored, because I am a fan of your photos, of your subjects, which go straight to the heart.
Really original, very special and well cared for! A real feast for the eyes! Special thanks to Yvette who delights us with these clever services!
Thank you very much!
Such a nice interview and great tips to help us all. I wonder if you could comment a little on the process of obtaining permission from people on the street to take and use the photographs. Thank you. I love your work.
Thank you! I am afraid that in the case of candid street photography there is no question of obtaining the permission to take the photo – if you get the agreement in advance, then we are not talking about candid. However, theoretically you can later discuss with the people photographed if they want to delete the photo and if they agree with its publication. In practice, however, I think it is difficult to do this, because you usually move quickly to the next scene and you want to be perceived by everyone around you as an ordinary observer. I will immediately delete a photo from the camera if a person asks me to do so. Nevertheless, it has not happened to me yet. Moreover, I will delete a photo from all the sites where I published it, if someone asks me to, telling me that I violated his image right. But, again, this is something that has never happened to me before. It happened twice that people photographed, seeing the published photos, asked me to send them the jpeg at the highest resolution to print the photos.
Thank you. This helps a lot
Beautifully defined photos and good approach to the subjects. I'll try to get to know the authors you mention.
Thank you.
Great and beautiful insight tin to street photography , lovely photos and a great interview. beautiful pictures, love it!
Thank you very much!
Hello Denis: I like the way you express yourself; reading your writings you see "Life" with capital letters and seeing your images complete it. Glad to meet you if only through this great interview. I congratulate you and send you an affectionate greeting.
Thank you very much for your kind words!
Great and beautiful insight tin to street photography , lovely photos and a great interview.. congratulations to Denis and the editors
Thank you very much!
Beautiful interview, beautiful pictures, love it!
Thank you very much, Paolo!
I really like the authenticity of Denis's photographs. Congratulations for the work and for this excellent article. Thank you Yvette.
Thank you very much, Miguel! Marius Cinteză, during the interview, asked me what would be my most important advice to aspiring street photographers. Now I realize I should have said „authenticity” too. I'm glad you appreciate this in my pictures.
Great work Denis, I really enjoy your images, they are very thoughtful. Best regards, Patrick
Thank very much, Patrick! „Thoughtful” is a word I really like about my images, I'm glad you see them that way.
A very keen eye for meaningful moments on life's urban stage. Sensitive, telling scenes. Congrats, Denis and keep up the good work. Wonderful gallery. Thank you, Marius and Yvette for sharing this talented photographer's work with us!
Thank you very much, Ludmila! I'm very happy with what you're telling me - I want to capture sensitive and telling scenes and the fact that my pictures convey that to you really encourages me.
Thank you so much, Ludmila, for your kind words!!