Mugur Vărzariu winner of the ‘Leica for AICR’ People Photo Contest

This is Mugur Vărzariu’s winning photo from the ‘Leica for AICR’ People photo contest hosted on Leica’s page on Facebook. The photo was featured on Leica’s profile picture on Facebook during the week of July 5 as part of the efforts to raise awareness about AICR and the ‘Leica User Forum Book‘. Each week during July there will be a different themed photo contest that relates to a chapter in the ‘Leica User Forum Book’. To learn more about the ‘Leica for AICR’ photo contest, please visit http://bit.ly/AICRphotocontest. Here’s the interview with Mugur Vărzariu who shares more about the winning photo and his recent emergence as a pro photographer.

Here’s the interview with Mugur Vărzariu who shares more about the winning photo and his recent emergence as a pro photographer.

Q: You mentioned that you started as a photographer less than four months ago. Were you a serious enthusiast before going pro? What made you decide to go pro?

A: I always had the equipment of a pro and I always carried this equipment with me wherever I went – holidays, family events and so forth. In a way am a serious enthusiast in everything I do. I always wanted to become a pro but my life took me on a different path. This year somehow, the timing was just right and so I decided to make this my top priority.

I can say that I first started one week before Easter this year. I was thinking that I need a project to work on and by some divine inspiration faith was my first theme. The idea is to cover all major religious events from the main religions in Romania, and state that regardless of the name or place of worship, people’s faith is the same in all confessions. My country is struggling to find it’s identity as a nation, a differentiating point. Many attempts where made and all failed. I believe that peoples faith is what makes us different.

Q: What camera and equipment do you use?

A: I am in love with Leica so I use an M9 with a 28 mm f/2, a trielemar and a 50 mm with f/0.95. I also use 2 Canons 5D mark II with fixed lenses (24 – f/1.4, 35 – f/1.4 and 50 - f/1.2).

Q: How would you describe your photography?

A: I am interested in documentary photography. I believe it’s the only true way in which you can help people. I am a beginner so I am not sure about the technical aspects of my work but because I love what I do and I believe there is lots of emotions in my images. I find it very easy to be accepted by the people I try to photograph…

Q: Did you have any formal education in photography, with a mentor, or were you self taught? Was there a photographer or type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?

A: As a serious enthusiast you can say I was self taught. Last year I also attended a training course in Italy with Paolo Pelegrin. There is someone who helped me a lot since the beginning of this year. His name is Vadim Ghirda, and I believe he is one of the best photojournalists in the world. Yet, his gift as photographer is nothing compared to his modesty and capacity to share his knowledge. This combined with my life experience so far and capacity to listen is what helped me achieve so much in such a short period of time. I am a subscriber to Leica LFI magazine and I occasionally buy books on photography but I believe I can not talk about an external influence in my style – I am not sure I even have one yet…

Some people start a carrier in photography early in their life and you can see (hopefully) how their character is shaped by each photo they take. I graduated in economics, I have an EMBA and I worked in marketing strategy (positioning) for 15 years. I helped positioning hundreds of brands. This is the external influence (or experience) that I bring to photography.

Q: How would you classify the genre of your photos?

A: At the time I attended Paolo Pelegrin’s workshop I did not have one single image with people in it. At the end of the workshop everyone seamed to appreciate my street photographs of Genova. I am a documentary photographer.

Q: How did you first become interested in Leica?

A: As a marketing strategist, Leica’s story as a brand always fascinated me. I first got a Leica 3 years ago (M8). Now I am amazed of what I can do even with my titanium D-Lux 4.

Q: You mentioned the winning photo is part of a story about abandoned kids – could you elaborate and tell us more about the story and how you came to capture it?

A: 5 years ago a friend of mine working for an advertising agency told me about this place for the first time. As a personal initiative he was asking people to contribute whatever they could to help this community. At the time, with the money I donated he purchased the windows for the first house the priest had the chance to refurbish. This is the story of a priest who preached against abortion. When asked by the desperate soon-to-become mothers what they can do instead of abortion he offered to provide them and their newborns with shelter. To meet state requirements the priest had to appeal to private help to refurbish the homes he bought from the villagers, provide them with running water, or build new ones, etc…Now there are many families sheltering abandoned kids in these two villages. Now there are around 100 kids of different ages living in this ever-growing community. You can find totally abandoned kids, kids which receive their mother’s visit form time to time and mothers who flee their homes ashamed to give birth out of wedlock and come here to deliver. Some of them remain for years, others deliver and leave. I went back this year with my friend to bring food. Even though it was nice to see those windows for the first tine, being a photographer now I realized that I can do much more by telling their story than by just donating money so now I donate time and sweat.

Q: What approach do you take with your photography?

A: I am at a point in life where I feel I have to give something back to the world. I first wanted to help people with my writing. Nobody reads anymore. If my images will be appreciated I would love to publish an album and have the kids benefit from it. Many try to help but it’s just one time only. This is why sometimes the poor community has something to put on the table and sometimes they don’t have anything. I hope this album will provide them with a small but constant source of income.

I will work hard and I will hope my images will be appreciated. And I can only dream that I will be offered the chance to take more projects and help other communities as well.

-Leica Internet Team

To learn more about Mugur Vărzariu, please visit his website www.storyviewer.ro.

This post is part of the special ‘Leica for AICR’ series. To purchase the ‘Leica User Forum Book’, please click here. Proceeds benefit the UK-based Association for International Cancer Research (AICR). Please visit our page on Facebook to enter the ‘Leica for AICR’ photo contest; this week’s theme is Landscape. Based on Leica’s Twitter initiative, Leica is donating €3,000 to AICR – thank you for making this possible!