My friends call me Yoyo. ‘Ioana’ is a really common Romanian name, but some native English speakers struggle with the vowels so either they drop one (Iona, like the Scottish island), or add consonants in between (Ioanna, Johanna, Loana, etc). Most people remember Yoyo. I sound a little Irish because I lived in Ireland for a few years.
I surf between art and science: first came art school. I trained as a classical pianist but switched to computers and got a BSc from the University of Limerick. I moved to London for a job with Lehman Brothers and stayed in finance for 12 years, specializing in low-latency electronic trading. Most of my free time was spent photographing, so in 2019 I gave up the day job to try freelance photography, but taking the pandemic into context my timing could’ve been better.
Anything to do with people. I’ve always been curious about people’s lives and their stories, and a camera gives me an excuse to walk up to a stranger and ask for a portrait. I’m not exactly shy, but I’ve always lacked confidence. I’m pretty sure the first few strangers I interacted with as a direct result of my camera could see my nerves; what they couldn’t see were my hands shaking or hear my ears ringing, that’s how fast my heart was going. Thankfully shooting got easier with time. With few photo jobs last year I started a personal project in my East London neighbourhood, the Isle of Dogs. It’s an ongoing documentary project of pictures and text, looking at the people, geography and economics of this very visible but neglected corner of London. Working on it got me out of the first-lockdown depression that so many people experienced.
I’ll never forget: I was at my desk about seven years ago, desperate to escape the office and looked up pictures from Maramures, Romania. I stumbled onto Davin Ellicson’s project Taran, work he’d made by living with peasants for two years. I thought to myself “those are the pictures in own my memories; that’s what I’ve always wanted to make“. I contacted Davin, we met a few months later and he taught me about two fundamental things: photo agencies and photobooks. I started reading as much as I could on Magnum, VII and Panos Pictures, photojournalism and war photography, going to exhibitions and talks.
Another moment was meeting one of my now closest friends, James Moreton. He was in London for a street photo meet-up and we couldn’t stop talking about photography, books, collectives and zines. James got me into film and introduced me to street photography. I then attended two workshops: one with Richard Bram and Stephen Leslie, the other with Matt Stuart. I absorbed as much information as I could in both, same as I do with books, but I’m also working on my own style – which seems to be more subtle, quiet photography.
The most recent “when” was meeting Colin Pantall (again by accident), who became my mentor. He opened my eyes to the intellectual side of photography, taught me to analyse projects, to ask more questions and I cannot thank him enough.
There are stories to tell everywhere around you. Sometimes you just need to stop for a second and look properly.
– I’m a sum of all the people I’ve met in life and they are my constant source of inspiration.
– You need to keep your eyes and ears open, and follow the opportunities that come your way.
– Photography is best seen in print, James and I started Duck Sale Press to publish zines; we’ve just published one, and another will follow shortly behind
– My favourite question has always been ‘why.’ The more I photograph the more I ask it.
– Photography keeps me sane (debatable).