Photographer Felicia Simion has spent almost half her life behind the lens of a camera and is the self confessed ‘odd ball’ of the family. First discovering photography at the age of only 13, Felicia fell (hard and fast) head over heels in love with the craft and has been obsessed ever since.
She has received a wide range of awards from international competitions and, In 2016, her photo series ‘The Playground’ earned her a spot on our D&AD Next Photographer shortlist. We caught up with her to hear her top tips for aspiring creatives and find out what life’s like for a young photographer in Romania.
What are you up to now and what’s next for you?
Right now I have just finished a Bachelor degree in Photography and Videography at the Bucharest National University of Arts. After that, I will start a Master course in Ethnology, Anthropology and Folklore at the Faculty of Letters in Bucharest. For the next two years I plan to focus on documentary photography, while pursuing my fine art and commercial work as well.
I also hope to write a book about ‘The Playground’ and participate at international festivals and competitions.”
What's your series 'The Playground' about?
“The playground is a story about growing up and facing new challenges with attitude, inquisitiveness and courage”. The photo series centres around a small boy named Felix who spends his holidays in a small Romanian village, detached from the hustle and bustle of modern life, unspoiled by the technology. Throughout each of the images Felix takes part in a kind of metamorphosis, playing the role of different characters, wearing many faces and costumes.
Can you tell us the story behind each of the images?
“In the first image he is four-years-old; he wears his father’s coat and his sister’s tights”. He stares defiantly into the camera, his expression solemn, seemingly unaware and unphased by his mismatched outfit.
“After that, he transforms into “Lola”, a character he made up when he found the old blonde wig. He sings and dances around the courtyard until he stops for a serious portrait – and even though he tries to stay as serious as possible, his bicycle bruises still show up on his cheeks, reminding how much of a kid he is.
In the third image, Felix is dressed up as a Dalmatian dog (which he thinks is a rabbit), swinging back and forth while my Grandma’s dogs bark at the camera. The image focuses on the dog behind, who stares at the lens while Felix rolls his eyes as if he has had enough of photography.”
Afterwards he becomes a Romanian shepherd wearing a coat which I found at the thrift store and some other accessories that were forgotten in my father’s shed. It was a dark and rainy November day that created a dim mist across the village, making the church appear mysteriously omnipresent somewhere in the background.
The last picture presents a more straight-forward portrait of Felix, where he doesn’t play any character but himself – his milk teeth are falling out and being replaced with adult teeth”, which symbolizes his growth and transition from boy to man. His wide eyes are big, “almost trying to say something, to make a statement, as if Felix was now truly ready for the world.”
You’ve been behind a camera since you were 13, was there any other career path you wanted to pursue?
“Yes indeed, I was very keen on singing, drawing, literature and even Maths! However, when the thought of photography occurred to me, it was as if all my childhood quests were going towards it. As silly as it may sound and even though I was only 13, I knew almost instantly that I wanted to become a photographer for the rest of my life.”
Barely a year into her photography career, Felicia began entering various competitions, as she puts it “purely out of curiosity and for the fun of it all. I never expected to win, but, boy, when I did it was such a great joy.
In 2012 I received my first award that would be written about in press and presented at local exhibitions and TV shows." From then on, I entered more and more and never looked back.
How important are Awards for launching Photographers careers?
“I think that it’s a very interesting and challenging part of a photographer’s career. Participating can be as good as winning sometimes, because you expose your work to prestigious jury and have the chance to take part in interviews, features and commissions. I feel you get to know your work better by seeing other artist's’ projects.
And lastly, any advice to those thinking of entering?
“Stay challenged and positive. Look up to the other artists that enter the competition and try to learn from them. Choose your best project and try to present it heartfully.”
The D&AD Next Photographer Award unearths the best new photographic talent and promotes it back into the industry. If you think you could be the next Felicia Simion, find out how you can enter and kickstart your career.