"Most of the photographs that I take are variations of 'I wish I died right now,'" says photographer Valeriu Catalineanu. "A stifling, black, suffocating aesthetic. Black and white images of death and mourning. The click of the camera is like seppuku—I experience, simultaneously, the conservation and the death of the object trapped within the photosensitive casket. I feel the absence of every person or event becoming yet more present through their absence." Catalineanu first became struck by the power of the image as a small child. His family had boxes full of photos and pictures that he used to spend hours looking through, but it wasn't until much later that it became an obsession: "At 19 I started reading the first photo books. I did not had a camera, but I was starting to take pictures in my mind." His photographs are both painfully intimate and yet resonate with a universal warmth and gentle wit, like the below image, taken at his godfather's funeral. "I got my name from him," says Catalineanu. "During the ritual, the priest was repeating his (my) name all the time—'May Valeriu rest in peace, may God forgive his soul, we have gathered here to bring our last thoughts to Valeriu,' etc. People were crying, saying his (my) name. It was a strange experience."
On working in Bucharest: "Oh, well, to put it very simply, it's like a beautiful nightmare: psychotic, surreal, warm, hard to deal with. You wanna leave it, but you come back to it."
On a career-defining moment: "It's actually a book, Hermann Hesse's Narziß und Goldmund. 180-degree life-change. I read it a couple of times a year, and it still has a huge impact on me. Every page I was reading was explaining my inner self. My past, current and future actions and feelings. It was a very powerful psychoanalysis of my nature and everything I was. It's a book about me. It's such good work that everyone identifies somehow with the story. It's a very personal experience and It would be demystifying to explain it here."
On what's next for him: "I'm working on promoting my project, Nigredo, which you can see on my website, and trying to make it into a photo book. Nigredo is the first alchemical process one goes [through] in search of his inner self. It's a very violent process where everything burns down to its basic components: feelings, thoughts, actions. Burning, decomposing, chaos, blacker then the blackest black. It's a very complex psychoanalytic process. I found the analogy of alchemy and this first process in the aesthetic of my images: grainy, black, ambiguous. It's still an ongoing search. I feel that my images could get more raw."