Sidonia Axente, a Romanian Photographer in Virginia

By Roxana Curpas- Surprise,
It is believed that in 1903, the Lumiere brothers patented a color photography process. Throughout the 20th and the 21st centuries, many have developed a passion for photography or understood how to make money from such a passion.

It happened the same with Sidonia Axente, who immortalizes for eternity the most beautiful, the happiest moments of a couple: the marriage ceremony, and their engagement party. As a confirmation of her great job, after becoming parents, many couples felt only appropriate to ask her to make, with inspiration, the photos that will become the memories of the baptizing ceremony for their child – which made her portfolio to grow in diversity.
She learned the trade of this profession from her father, and she tells us that her professional debut as a photographer was when she was only thirteen years old, even though the passion for photography she carried within her ever since she entered at school.
She’s presently located in Arizona, she has two children, and a husband who’s also her business partner. She’s a natively inclined photographer, who’s practicing for over 16 years the art of photography, and she has never considered changing her calling. She admires Jerry Ghionis and she likes couples who throw everything on the table for the memory of a lifetime!

Sidonia Axente was born in March 1976, at Codlea – the County of Brasov, in Romania – where in fact her parents are still living to this day – the city of her childhood. She never forgets those times – moments filled with wonderful memories – and the dearest image of all is the one of her beloved forest. Se is an only child, of whose mother was a local bank employee, ending up by achieving the position of bank president. Her father was a photographer – the source of the inspiration that she inherited. Sidonia has two children, a boy – named Ernest – and a daughter, Larisa, who’s eight years old. Larisa seems to have already stepped into her mother’s shoes, already claiming the title of the class artist, at school, showing a real passion for artistic painting. Larisa is always the first in her class that turns in the assignments, so she has time to draw in peace, after that.
Sidonia is not only a great mother and a supportive wife, but she’s a formidable professional, a gifted free lance photographer that does not intend to influence the choices of her children’s careers. She intends to give to her children the freedom to choose each one for him/her a way in life. From her own experience she knows that when you do what you love, it is not really working, anyway …
Sidonia is married since November 11th, 2000 with Michael, who does exclusively video productions. The two of them successfully teamed up in business, as well as in life, and Michael is Sidonia’s greatest art critic. Michael, in parallel is also an electrician ? (journeyman) – at the Electricians Association / Union.
In Sidonia’s case, her academic training – Accounting College that she graduated in Romania – did not help her much. To succeed, in her business – like in any business- the success is not only talent as an artist photographer, but business capabilities, as well.
In Sidonia’s opinion ” if you are not also a go-getter in that profession, you may very well end up with beautiful photos on your walls, and with an empty wallet in your purse ” .
In Romania Sidonia took courses of video-editing and video-operating, classes taught at local television station, in Brasov, by professionals invited to teach and lecture from Romanian National Television – main Romanian news channel: TVR 1. She even wet her feet in TV, working for a while as a camera-woman for the news department, where she gained experience and crystallized a style as a photo-journalist.
In this profession – she says – there are no limits as to what you can do, which made her fall in love with her calling as an artist-photographer. For each new event involving her expertise, she’s open to any new challenges related to all opportunities, regardless if the new comes from people, places or experiences. With respect to the word “failure”, the artist states that she’s not afraid to fail, but that she tries to anticipate the failures and avoid them to the extent possible. She learns from other people’s mistakes; and by quoting her father, she says “ordinary people learn from their own mistakes, smart people learn from other people’s mistakes”.

If asked what would be her project of choice in photography, it would be undisputed the ceremony of marriage, with all that the event involves, starting with the engagement announcement and ending with “trash the dress session”. With that said, it is not surprising that her majority orders are wedding ceremonies, and this type of projects are also the area in which, as a business-woman, she works the hardest to promote herself. Lately, however, Sidonia is more and more required to cover with her gift baptizing ceremonies as well, mostly by people that when they got married they did not understood the need of hiring a professional photographer, specialized in this type of event – an expert to catch on celluloid the true essence of the event. After the fact, all these non-believers became true believers in the concept of choosing the right man (woman in our case …) for the right job. These people, armed with the new discovery are in the search for a Master of Photography, for the baptizing ceremony of their child, and Sidonia knows how to promote her talents and to take advantage of the opportunity, and in the process, the parent-couple gets a photo session, to reward the initial loss (the lack of a professional photographer at their wedding) in which they are educated about the importance of quality memories, and presented with different options as scenarios.

Sometimes Sidonia Axente plays with her gift, by taking photos using her daughter’s “point and shoot” camera, which “it will amaze you with the quality of the photo done by that regular camera”. When it’s about advertising, she does it all, and she’s happy with the results – she thinks she has a great capability to sell her product. At this moment she works exclusively by referrals, but the possibility of starting a professional advertising campaign for her business is a project for her near future. For the moment her business, along with Michael’s, is present on several websites dedicated to this type of business, such as: or
Going down the memory lane, Sidonia remembers how everything started in Romania, when she was only sixteen. She will never forget her first wedding project: September 5th, 1992. In Romania she had her own studio, opened with her father in 1996. Like any successful business, it takes a lot of hard work, but she did it with joy and confidence, and in 2003 she takes full charge of the entire photo-studio operation. Ironic, when everything started to work as planned, Michael earns for himself and for his family the American dream, with “Diversity Visa Program”. For the family the decision to try a fresh start in the “Promise Land” was not a difficult one, since they dreamed all their life to live outside Romania.

Her first contact with the world outside Romania was when she was 12, right before the Romanian Revolution in 1989, in a memorable trip offered by her parents. They had a month of traveling, with the family “Dacia” and a camping trailer, inside few of the Eastern states: Democratic Republic of Germany (at the time), Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland, an experience that deeply touched Sidonia, who suffered by comparison of what her own country experienced at the time. Returning to Romania, she suffered when she realized how poor and limited her own people were forced to live their lives. In all this time, during their trip to Eastern Europe, the entire family had airline tickets to Australia with the intent to petition political asylum. It never happened: they returned home, and not long after the Romanian Revolution changed the communist regime of Ceausescu. Soon after that, in 1990, she went into a new trip – with other children of her age, in excursion – outside Romania, this time in the Western Europe – in Austria. There, she remembers, the group coordinators would administer pills to calm the kids down, who’s energy when experiencing the multitude of colors, products, and smiley faces of all over happy people was hard to be controlled. Sidonia’s perception of the communist society, at her return from Austria was only emptiness in her soul, misery and sadness on the faces of her co-nationals, and the feeling of darkness in all the gray corners of empty Romanian markets. But most of all the lack of hope and the lack of happiness, and the missing smiles of the faces of Romanians made her to forever dream to emigrate. The perseverance finally made her dream come true: after several unsuccessful attempts to “lottery visa”, the sixth time Michael was a winner, for himself and for his family!

Presently, about 90 percent of the entire work done by Sidonia revolves around wedding projects, and she never feels better inspired as she is when dealing with marriage ceremonies. In her opinion an important factor when dealing with couples is to make them feel comfortable with their artist-photographer, and she works for that even from the very first moments, when the engagement ceremony project is on the works. Even though there were instances when she was not able to establish chemistry with the couple, the overall experience is a smooth cooperation and understanding between her as a Master of Ceremony in her field, and clients – the happy couple – in the most important event of their lives: a new beginning.
And an added plus to this strategy is the fact that she is present to the engagement ceremony, as photographer, so by the time when the wedding is scheduled, the mutual acceptance and the comfort is already in place, between the artist, the groom and the bride.

Sidonia Axente chose the field of the wedding expertise somehow guided by her father, on one hand, and by the market demand at that time: Romania of 1992, where with wedding ceremonies an artist photographer would be able to earn a decent living. While specializing in the secrets of this art, she learned to enjoy it, and not to look at this as to a job, but much more as to a hobby with financial benefits… and that even from the times when she was still a high school student. That way she never asked money from her parents, and she learned from an early age the value of the honest hard worked money. Maybe the money were too strong of a factor when she took the decision – a disputable decision, but not too late to be changed, …- of not continuing the higher education, in an university,…
And if in Romania, due to her numerous projects she was over-worked, and the quality of her photos was on the commercial side of the art spectrum, without time to perfect her style into a signature work, since she moved to US she got the opportunity to work and learn from professional photographers, trained here, in America design and arts academies. Her style got personality and her techniques became unique: she’s avoiding the stereotypes by leaving her personalized mark in her works. And the fact that she’s a Pisces – the sign of artists – would not hurt her artistic approach either,… in her profession?

During the years of successfully promoting her talents on the professional market, she had many funny experiences. One is always alive in her memory: her first photo, done in Romania, at a civil marriage ceremony. For over two years she was her father silent assistant: she learned the secrets of the job, by carrying the bag of her father, starting her apprenticeship when she was only 12 years old. And her “baptizing” in this profession came one day, when her father told her: “You take pictures while I?ll change the film-role to the other camera”. Sidonia was already overwhelmed by responsibility of her first “hand on” experience, never mind the presence of the City Mayor and his assistant, and over 60 guests to the couple’s event. She remember that “she froze” and she got sick to her stomach, due to the high emotions … Now she’s laughing when looking back … but at the time it seems like the most serious moment of her life.

Sidonia Axente had been thrilled to take part of “DWF Convention” between 11th and 14th of January (2009) at “Carefree Resort” in Arizona. There she experienced “hands on” expertise from masters of photography of he northern American territory, with international participation as well, in different particular areas, such as: fashion photography, photo journalism, high end weddings, light techniques, sales, marketing business management, etc. The event was honored by the presence of the Australian Photographer Guru Kevin KUBOTA – the receptor of the title “One of the top 10 Wedding Photographers in the World” by The American Photo Magazine. She had also the privilege to meet Denis REGGIE (USA) named “the best in business” by the famous Oprah.

As long term projects, Sidonia is looking forward to become an American citizen, and she dreams to the day when she will have the opportunity to live again in a mountain area, surrounded by grass, and neighbored by the forest – a similar landscape as in her beloved Codlea – the town of her childhood – regardless if this place will be in Arizona, or any other corner of the US.
Like any respectable professional, she believes in the concept of artistic photography, even though in her opinion “the art never ends its possibilities, they are only temporary abandoned”. She never has a problem with deadlines, and “working under pressure”. Even more, she’s prouder of her results done under pressure. Ever since she is in the US, she worked in a bank, but her “day job” does not match her artistic soul: the routine of the rigorous?banking program, with predictable breaks, always at the same time of the day, and endless house in front of a computer screen is not something she looks forward in her “day job”.

For the moment Sidonia Axente in only into photography, but for her future she plans to approach another field, and she is thinking of Psychology.

If asked for advice in her line of work – art photography – she would suggest to whoever is interested, to have a “day job” because of the random orders in this line of work, where you never can predict the income. Also she insists on seriousness and professionalism in approaching any job, big or small. She thinks of herself as a “native born photographer”. She’s somewhat frustrated of the idea that no one told her at her beginnings how much money out of pocket this job involves, how much dedication it takes to become a professional photographer, and the fact that technology can become obsolete in less than half a year.

It is Sidonia’s opinion that she’s far for knowing all the secrets of the photographic art, and the more she learns, the more she realizes how broad the photographic spectrum it is, but she does it with satisfaction, and she looks at it not like a job, but like a joy.
Obviously , nothing can be perfect – like in any profession, the goal is get over it , and move on: it annoys her second hand smoke, especially felt at weddings in Romania, and the “competent advises” of all types , made by “occasional experts” in all areas of photography: light, techniques, etc …, advises that you cannot bluntly dismiss them , because they are coming from your clients’ dear relatives … Once of the sudden everyone knows everything about photography, and the liqueur on the tables at any family event, either is a wedding, or a baptizing, it becomes an inspiring factor … This is how you end up hearing “priceless remarks” like ” Come on , go on, we know that there is nothing will go wrong , it’s good the way it is …”. At the same time , there is nothing more frustrating as a professional photographer than – when you finally put everyone in place for their dream picture – someone in the group finds exactly in that moment something to do, something so important that will take no delay: to tell a joke on the cell phone to an old buddy that is not present …
And that moments are crucial for the well being of the group photo, and the entire project, but hey, “our customer, our master” , so the hack with the professional advise …

This is the reason for which Sidonia would wish that people are not in such rush when it’s about to leave memories on celluloid, especially when about wedding memories. Of course there are couples that have fully understood the need for patience and the need to follow the expert advice of the artist photographer for the exceptional outcome of the entire project, but unfortunately this is not the case all the time.
There is also the type of the client who expects the impossible from Sidonia: she has to do her job flawless, the photos have to be exceptional at poorest, and their contribution should be either none, or at best a passive one: a non-participation in which the photograph has to do the entire work, herself? There is no doubt, the wedding day comes with a lot of stress, and anxiety, hopes and desire for absolute perfection, and it is not easy for the groom and bride to be all smiley and joyful, and especially because of that reality Sidonia recommends her clients to reserve few hours for the after wedding session, when both the groom and the bride are relaxed and disconnected from the prior tensions.

With respect to the photographic techniques, it is Sidonia’s professional opinion that everything revolves around the type of job and situation in the field: there is no universal accepted technique that will work always, in any circumstances, but she recognizes the help of the new computer technology, in which “Photoshop” software can turn a good photo into an excellent picture.
Her tools of choice are Nikon cameras and Nikon professional lenses, and the main sources of inspiration for her are professional publications – mainly in the fashion field – and movies. So are the professional gatherings – like congresses, or symposia, exhibitions – , and she finds herself almost never inspired by her colleagues in the art – photographic field. The Internet, for those who are inclined to study the art of photography, it will always remain the main resource of information.
In over sixteen years since she’s professing photography, Sidonia admits that every time when practicing her calling she becomes another person, whose adrenaline and enthusiasm never decreased, and the critic eye with which she’s evaluating her work is now even more merciless than it was at the beginning.
For the large audience, interested in her projects, and the quality of her work, her portfolio can be viewed on the following web address:

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