"The spark that makes me pick a certain object can never be fully explained or understood. I encourage viewers to do the same, to try not to overthink or overly interpret."

Maria Artene is a Romanian photographer based in Iasi. While she normally specializes in glamour and erotic photography, she has recently partnered with Ignis Vultus, a local historical reenactment group, to work on a series of costume and weaponry photographs.

The result? A brilliant, visually compelling series of luscious pictures focusing on a seemingly symbiotic combination of swords, daggers, and portraiture showcasing centuries-old attire, complemented by flower arrangements and silky smooth backdrops. This collection is a warm and spontaneous take on product photography, as if it were set in the 16th century—a beautiful series of still-life vivid imagery. Additionally, her more personal project, “Cel din urmă vis” (The Last Dream), is an even more instinctual endeavor that seems to capture moments from nature in atmospheric short clips.

Discover more about Maria’s creative process and her future plans in the interview below.

CVLTARTES: Who is Maria Artene, the photographer and videographer? Could you briefly introduce yourself and your art?

Maria Artene: I believe the best way to know me is to simply take a look! Otherwise, I could ruin a good impression with unfit words. 

It appears to me that your work beautifully intertwines themes like peace, nature, and perhaps more gothic elements like ravens and weaponry. What other themes and motifs can be found in your work?

Given the abundance of weapons I photograph, I find it odd that the first word you use is “peace”, but I suppose there is a certain calmness that I transmit. Rose petals and drapage are probably the most recurring elements that appear in my work.

Where did it all come from? What has been, let’s say, your artistic journey leading to this distinctive style that merges candid, folk elements with a more gritty yet subtle, dark atmosphere?

I grew up in a small, quiet city with abandoned 19th–20th century buildings and old trees, and I studied in a school that had seen both World Wars. Being surrounded by such things would have an impact on everybody in terms of appreciating what is visually pleasing and stands the test of time. Following that, art university was rather disappointing, with the teachers’ post-modern ideas.

Luckily, some time after that, I was blessed enough to have both the time and resources to preoccupy myself with more than mere survival, and by chance, I was invited to join a historical reenactment group named Ignis Vultus. The members craft and forge replicas and reproductions of swords, sabers, knives, and early modern firearms (they are not functional, do not worry!). I was immediately mesmerized! Following that, I reconnected with a friend who had, in the meantime, become a gunsmith and opened her own gun store—Artemis Armurier—and so I had found an army of inspiring subjects. I am eagerly awaiting what will come next.

What’s your approach to capturing such compelling images and videos, and what do you hope viewers feel or take away, especially given the calm yet somewhat foreboding quality of your work?

I go with instinct! I try not to “think” the images too much or to insert any hidden “meaning” in them. What my eye is naturally attracted to has an explanation that I can offer after the fact, but the spark that makes me pick a certain object (the same that makes a viewer stop at a certain image) can never be fully explained or understood. I encourage viewers to do the same, to try not to overthink or overly interpret.

Is photography/videography primarily a professional endeavor for you or more of a passion-driven art form?

Yes, it is a profession! In my day to day life, I am a nude/glamour photographer! 

Looking at your work, I often sense a feeling of “calm before the storm”? Would you agree? Is it intentional or not?

It is not intentional at all! I am a rather anxious and nervous person, and my train of thought is always messy. How these facts affect my work is a mystery, as I can never truly know neither how my mind actually works nor how viewers perceive my images.

It was your most recent series, with the striking juxtaposition of medieval weapons with fruits and flowers against a gritty, sensual backdrop, that caught my attention. Could you tell me more about it?

It was mainly inspired by 16th century still life painting, as I think it is a genre that has much reinterpretation potential. A lot of photographers do pay homage to classical art, but they mostly focus on portraits. I am  more interested in objects than people as subjects.

Your other, ongoing project, “Cel Din Urmă Vis” (The Last Dream), seems to capture motifs of quietude and stillness best. Your videos could easily be considered “moving photographs”. How did it all start?

I was looking at the way some leaves’ shadows played on a stone wall, and I was trying to photograph the scene, only for it to seem very dull. I thought it would be best to film it, but quickly shrugged the thought away, as I guessed nobody would be interested in something that is neither a photo nor a video, but just a single moving shot. Imagine my surprise  when I discovered that there was an entire online trend exactly like that! I knew this was something I needed to hop onto. 

With such a distinctive style and these compelling projects, what are your artistic plans or ambitions going forward? Are there any new themes or project ideas you’re eager to explore? Any upcoming series?

I do plan on starting a glamour/erotic project, since this is my specialty. I have avoided publishing my work in this domain in the last few years, since it has recently become something that is monetized by everybody. Back when I started in this genre, it was still something daring and personal, and people were not as desensitized to erotic imagery as they are today. Still, I do have a drive to persist in this domain, and I will find the time to make some images that are expressive, original, and worth viewing.

Follow Maria Artene on:

Instagram | Facebook | DeviantArt | Pexels

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Romanian writer based in Cyprus. Co-founder CVLTARTES. Author of "Hailbringer: A Romanian Folktale"