Alecsandra Raluca Dragoi was born in Romania and currently lives in London, United Kingdom. She says she has always had the curiosity “to discover new places and to meet people from all around the world. Therefore, England was the best choice, as I’ve had the opportunity to meet interesting people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. “
Alecsandra graduated from University of Portsmouth in 2014 with a First Class Honours Degree.
In 2013 she won the Overall Youth competition of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards.
Hi Alecsandra. Tell us what you’ve been up to since becoming the Overall Youth winner of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards
After becoming the Overall Youth Winner of the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards my life completely changed. In the last two years, photography has become part of my life. The great news from the Sony World Photography Awards came during a slippery time of my life. I was uncertain I was the right person to pursue such a pressured career. I was in my second year of my undergraduate degree at the University of Portsmouth, when the uncertainty towards my career came across. The prize gave me great courage and motivated me to never give up. With this prize I not only became known in this industry, but it also transformed me into an ambitious person, keen to continue exploring this passion.
As part of my undergraduate major project, from the winning Sony image, I started to build up a new project called 'Ritual', graduating with First Class Honours. After I graduated I was awarded with the Photographic & Digital Media Scholarship to follow a postgraduate course at the University of Westminster. The course into Photojournalism and Documentary Photography gave me the courage to follow my real dream for photo stories, succeeding to graduate with Distinction.
During the past two years, I was lucky to receive more awards from different photography competitions, continuing to apply in order to push myself further. I always feel there is more room for improvement. And for the past year I have been freelancing for my favourite newspaper, The Guardian. I consider it the best place for me to improve my career and to push myself as much as possible. I dream high and there is nothing in this world to stop me.
What did winning the award mean to you in the early stages of your career?
For me, winning the Youth competition of the Sony World Photography Awards felt the same as if I had won an Oscar. This prize pushed all the boundaries, and gave me a whole new energy to start believing in this career. Whenever I feel weak in what I do, I always close my eyes and take myself back to the stage, to the moment I was declared the winner. These memories have always given me power whenever I wanted to push myself further. Also, this award opened me many doors, and allowed me to get closed to the most important people from this industry. It totally changed my life. The award came in a time when every youth needs a push and some encouragement to pursue a dream. I was one of the lucky ones. But, I took this luck further and pushed myself and motivated myself to do better and better.
For as long as I can remember I have known what I wanted to do with my life. Since I first discovered the camera, I knew that I found my niche. Photography has always been a passion of mine, and journalism in particular has interested me for some time. Discovering new stories and capturing candid moments is very appealing to me. For me, photography has been a fantastic way to grow up faster and get to know myself.
Photography is not only a good tool to discover the world and myself, but also it gives me a great satisfaction, no matter the outcome. Photography gives me an energy that cannot be explained. It is part of my life. Whenever I take a picture, I feel the world is closer to my heart, and the impossible feels possible.
Looking for inspiration became an everyday habit. I find inspiration in my everyday life; people I meet, things I touch, smell, taste, hear, see, like and dislike, usually things that hide a story behind and capture my attention, things that need to be told. Probably looking for inspiration in the everyday life became my new sense.
You have self-published a number of photo books. Tell us about your process of editing for physical publications
I have always been passionate about photo books, especially when I have a project which needs to be told in a story format. Photo books are intimate and closer to my heart. Only the major projects are self-published. Currently I have four photo-project books. I am very proud of my latest book ‘Parallel Worlds’. Its concept was entirely constructed by myself, printed and bounded in different places. I am totally keen to work with a designer for the future projects. I think collaboration between a designer and a photographer would turn a photo book in a different and stronger outcome. The process of editing is hard and the best advice is to work with other people as well. It is really important to be objective when it comes to photo books. An extra image could create chaos on the photo story. There is a good way to get an outside perspective. I am always open to feedback when it comes to my personal projects. I have many plans for my future photo books.
A number of your commissioned and personal series feature portraiture. What does the photographic portrait mean to you?
I cannot see my images without a human presence. In my eyes, an image has no soul without the human’s emotion and energy.
Photographing people gives me so much energy. Probably I am not such an extrovert person in the day-to-day life, but when I have my camera, all the boundaries are crossed. It is not because I see the person behind ‘the curtain’. The camera and the intimate moment with my model make me happiest. It is hard for a reader to understand these feelings, but for me it means everything.
There is nothing more beautiful in this world than showing people’s emotions by telling their story through a single portrait. In my eyes, the best photographer is the one who transforms an intense moment into a still image. There is no sound, no movement, no smell, no nothing. Just stillness. Giving life to this stillness is what makes a great photographer.
What’s next for you?
The most important plan for the upcoming year is to extend the project I started after winning at the Sony World Photography Awards. I am keen to better explore the winter traditions in Romania, and maybe even Eastern Europe’s winter traditions. I am very determinate to publish a book about these customs, which are rarely known. I think I am the right person with a great passion for traditions and customs.
My work for the Guardian will also be priority for the future by continuing my passion for story-telling and portraiture. There is no better place to show my passion and my determination for photography than the Guardian.
Beside these two main projections on future, I am keen to extend my passion for travelling and cultures. I am always open to exploring the unknown and document it with my eyes, my camera and my heart.
And last, but not the least, one day I will win the Professional Category…