Dan St. Andrei is a well-traveled artist who specializes in photography and painting.  His work http://danandrei.com/ is truly stunning and I love it.  I wanted to find out what inspires this guy who lives in Bucharest, Miami and who knows where else?

“I want to enrich the image and bring it to my personal view of reality. I think that art is the reality filtered by the artist's mind, and for me, art is a way to express myself, to record the reactions of my personality, my thoughts, dreams and desire…”

MICHAEL: Hey Dan, Your work looks very cinematic to me. I mean, I see lots of deep imagery and exquisite detail akin to film noir. What inspires you to create?

DAN: Hi Michael, thanks a lot for your interest in my work. Well, I like to see the world as being beautifully imperfect and the imperfection is revealed in the human emotions and anxieties they reflect, holding a mirror to both what we reveal and what we hide within. So I try, through the art of photography, to search for the meanings and hidden motivations that put our world into motion. Perhaps the world motion is the source for the cinematic feeling of my work.

My inspiration comes mostly from my readings, starting from Dante to Boccacio, from Marcel Proust to Emil Cioran, but it also comes from the daily routine and street happenings.  Sometimes I could say that my photographs are a report about a world that exists only in my mind, because I strongly believe that there are moments when we allow our imaginations to roam free - in which we allow ourselves to dream. Another source of inspiration is my visual cultural experience; I deeply believe that the history of art is essential for an artist to develop his skills, to start building his artistic personality. An artist must be an art history connoisseur, connected to the present and looking into the future. And last but not least, I am a big fan of movies and my favorite film directors are: Tarkovski, Fellini, Bergman, Polanski, Almodovar, Bertolucci and many others.

MICHAEL: I see a lot of image layering and use of faint coloring in your work. Hints and subtleties. It must take forever to create those images, no?

DAN: For me, each photo is a story. It’s the result of a happening. It’s a matter of imagination. A photographer must see the extraordinary parts of common places, persons and stories and invent the way of showing to others. It’s true that I work a lot on a photo, on the original image. I mix the immediate reaction, the photo, with meditation/my dream, through digital alteration and intervention, until the result is exactly what I see as a unique witness of an untold story. When you look at my work there are always two plans: the general view and the hidden details. It is not the kind of photography that you could look at it just for a second, you need time to go deeply and understand.

MICHAEL: So what I'm hearing you say is you really paint with photography. Your photographs are not reality, but your personal expression. What does this kind of work do for you? What do you get out of this?

DAN: I use my paintings in my photos. I scan them and use them as textures or I even paint on the photography. And that’s just because I want to enrich the image and bring it to my personal view of reality. I think that art is the reality filtered by the artist's mind, and for me, art is a way to express myself, to record the reactions of my personality, my thoughts, dreams and desire. The viewer can find in my works the original subjects, but also colors and textures of my imagination and s/he can see a continuous effort because my photos are never finished. All of my projects remain open projects. Until the end, my photos are a permanent dialogue, I’ve always had a desire to share things that I have in mind with others.

MICHAEL: What's the difference between being a great photographer and artist who uses photography? What do you consider yourself?

DAN: For the moment, I'm living in Bucharest, Romania. But in the past ten years, I've lived in different places including Valencia (Spain), Montreal, Paris, Tampa and Lisbon. I like to think that I am a citizen of this world. I am happy everywhere and I like to melt in the surroundings and of course I'm influenced by places and people. Every place has a mood and I act as a deep diver into local atmospheres.

MICHAEL: Romania seems very romantic to me. Why are you living there? What is Romania like? I am imagining it's a place with lots of romantic history, No?

DAN: Yes, Romania could be seen as a romantic place, but also a world of contrasts: new and ancient, poverty and nouveau riche, romance and violence, black and white, but with lots of gray shades in between. Even if I don't use classical Romanian motifs in my work, there are a lot of sociological and style influences in my subconscious. I live here for the moment because it’s a familiar place and I find myself in a transition period, a period of inner searching and exercises to redefine my aesthetic values, so I try to avoid any disturbance factors.

MICHAEL: You say you're living there for the moment. Are you able to just pick up and leave places when you wish? How do you do that? Most people put down roots and have jobs, families and homes that keep them rooted. What's the secret?

DAN: Matisse said that an artist should never be a prisoner of himself, a prisoner of style, a prisoner of reputation, or a prisoner of success - a prisoner of a place and habits I would also to add. That is the only way to be fresh and new everyday to find new perspectives and be able to rethink your work. I am a free person and the people who are really free are not related to a specific place, except the ocean, in my case. And talking about my job, since I am an artist, I keep my job with me, whenever I go.

MICHAEL: Finally Dan, What is the point of art? Why are you even an artist? Only people like us who love art care about it. Most people don't care about art and certainly don't buy it. Why should anyone care about contemporary art?

DAN: Well, Joseph Beuys believed that everyone is an artist and in consequence, art could be everywhere. Art is found in the eyes (and mind) of the intelligent enough person willing to reveal himself through aesthetic senses. Art is everywhere, but only a few of us can sense and feel it. Art does not have a point, art just IS. Not everybody is interested in art and not everybody understands art, but this is normal and not a problem.

I believe those who have something to say and those who have something to listen to and discover should come together in a natural way. Art is here to stimulate people, to provoke them, but only those with an open mind and willingness to digest art. In fact, a person becomes an artist in the moment he becomes a provocateur. I believe that man is only truly alive when he realizes he is a creative. On my turn, I consider myself an artist because I think I have something to say and art is my language. Simple like that.

MICHAEL: Thanks Dan.  Nice chat.  Love your work.

Check out Dan St. Andrei at http://danandrei.com/