Catalin Croitoru

Catalin CROITORU Lens Magazine

A Compulsive Thief

“I am the biggest thief of my city… And I love being this way! Because I like to rob pieces of Montreal. From everywhere and every time I have the chance… I am a vicious stealer; with the help of my camera I am robbing this city the images of it. I sit in a corner of an intersection, or next to a bus stop, or on the subway platform. I hold that accessory that captures fragments of life in my right hand, ready; the thumb covers gently the shutter release button; the light of the intersection is changing, or the bus is stopped next to the embarking zone; or the subway arrives in the station, no matter what station is that one.

That is the moment when two lovers will offer each other a “goodbye” kiss; and that is the moment when the teenager will check his cell phone before he or she will get on… And because I was ready before anyone else I am pressing the trigger! Once, twice, or many times in a row. I never check what I captured with my camera right there, right after I have stolen the image of my city. I wait, again, patiently for the next moment to become a thief again… and again…

A smile, or a kiss, or a face, or an attitude – I collect all of those. I am like a magician that will stuff all his rabbits and his pigeons and his colored fabrics into his high-hat at the end of the show. Except the magician owns the rabbits and the fabrics; I don’t own any – I am stealing! And except the magician has his magic hat; I don’t wear one… I am just using my camera…

This passion for taking pictures grew up inside of me little by little. I didn’t dream of becoming a photographer; actually when I graduated the high school back there, in Europe, at the very end of the 80s, I wanted to become a writer. A short-stories teller. However the times were rough and I decided to follow a technical vocation, to become an engineer. So once I enrolled at the University I started to learn about how to prepare the concrete and what are the best additives for it…

In 1992 I have visited a friend of mine who worked for a local newspaper. I wanted to ask him to train me for the same job that he performed. Because I was thinking to get your story and your news published in a section of any journal takes a lot of time to be prepared; so I imagined I had to start from the bottom – like undusting the typewriters, like changing the ribbons for the typing machines, and after that, after a long time of training, someone will be allowed to write a tiny information that will be published on the last page… eventually…

It happened exactly the opposite for me: armed with a pen and a notepad I was sent to collect “news, good news” – as I was told. Even more, after a month I was wearing the skin of a journalist. I was sent into a war-zone. To report about the killings and about the victims; to witness how the machine guns were firing at a high speed and the tanks were burning in flames. There, on the frontline, I was the writer. The other guy that was next to me was the photographer…

And the writing job continued for more than fifteen years. It did not matter whether they were stories, or interviews or straight news – I always was the writer and “the other guy” next to me was the one who took pictures for my interviews or stories.

In 2005 I decided to leave everything behind and to move to Canada. That was an ABSOLUTE ZERO for me: new people, no friends or relatives, two new (or almost new…) languages, different habits. Because of the languages barriers I felt myself restrained and unable to communicate properly my thoughts with the others. That was the moment when I decided to express myself through the images I was taking. They used to say that a photo is “worth a thousand words”; but I really think it is a language as well. When you feel crippled and the words limit you, just grab a camera: it will open for you a new horizon and a new life!

I am attracted by everything that is odd or that looks unusual. Patterns, amalgam of weird colors, faces and attitudes, an unusual sock wearing a leg, a used pair of snickers, a wrinkle on a skirt, a man absorbed by the screen of his device… Everything!

This is the world I live in. Together with me there are so many others that are doing the same thing. Except that I see the pieces in a different light. There, on the streets of Montreal, I see the world with my own eyes. And I love what I see! And that’s why I became a thief: to keep those skirt wrinkles and faces and attitudes forever.”

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