" Coming from my acting background, I realised that my soft spot is a director-actor relationship on set. I build a world from scratch."
Luana Șeu, a Romanian narrative photographer based in New York City. Luana’s work is edgy, thought-provoking, and cinematic. A well-rounded artist, she enjoys including elements of acting, fashion, and dancing in her photographs. She writes scripts for her photoshoots, works with professional actors, and takes self-portraits when necessary. It’s safe to say that we had a very colourful conversation!
We talk about:
Luana’s acting career and how it has impacted her photography
How scripts help her tell meaningful stories
Why she’s not interested in creating photos that only focus on beauty
& much more!
Q: Do you write a script for every photoshoot?
Luana Șeu: Yes, all the time. I work on mood boards like every photographer. That’s what I start with. I have a colour palette. That’s very important to me. I also have a character analysis. I create characters and a storyline; how the characters interact with each other. Then, I write the script. It can sometimes be based on acting exercises or improvisation exercises.
I send everything to the actors. They look at it before they come on set. When we get together, we have at least an hour where we talk about what’s going to happen and our boundaries. I like to push things and I know that some people aren’t comfortable with that, so we have a discussion. Then, we shoot and it’s constant. Sometimes, we shoot for 40 minutes without stopping a scene.
Q: You’ve travelled a lot. What is it like to go back and forth and build your portfolio in different countries?
Luana Șeu: Wherever I’d go, I’d try to create work that was specifically the place that I was in. For example, when I was in Paris, I tried to photograph like the photographers that I appreciated there. My setup was very similar to theirs. However, it didn’t fulfil me. Because of my Eastern European background, my aesthetics are gray skies and moody atmospheres. The most fulfilling work that I do is the one that’s connected to my background.
I can’t run from my past, no matter where I am. I’m in New York, but my work has nothing to do with New York. Even if I was photographing the middle of the city, I don’t think I would capture the colorful lights. I think I’d capture the steps and the dirt on the ground because that’s more like my home. Wherever I am, I’m very connected to my background.
Q: What advice would you give to photographers who constantly doubt themselves and overthink?
Luana Șeu: Don’t think. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t think of a final product. I learned this from acting. I apply a lot of acting philosophy on my photography and how things happen. When you start a scene in acting – and you start a scene knowing that you’ll die at the end of the scene – there will be forced drama. It has to be a surprise, even for you! Let yourself be surprised by your mistakes and your accidents. Use them.
Commercial work is a different story. Let’s talk about personal projects. If you’re concerned about the final product in your personal work, that will become a burden. Start from zero.