Soft light melted through thin ice windows onto innocent faces. Cornel Fodoreanu, who goes by C. Fodoreanu, stood humbly in his new photography studio in the Arts District Library Station in Point Loma.
The black-and-white photographs of his exhibit, “street smart,” collectively filled the room with a powerful tone: the stories of seven children from Southern California’s suburban streets.
Fodoreanu circled the studio counterclockwise, sharing the story found in each photo. Leo smiles, dancing in a graffiti playground scattered with old tires and trash. Markie and his dog are separated by a chain link fence in a photo taken six months after his father was killed in a gang-related shooting. Markie tells people that sometimes he would like to run away like his dog. A group photo of all seven kids shows these unsung heroes looking to the future, the younger ones with fear and the older hopeful. Gang violence, divided families, sickness and death construct their normal. Although their daily lives are filled with a heavy struggle their eyes show a strong resilience and a hope for the future.
“Street smart,” presented by Cornel/Henry Art, is a fundraising exhibition with 50% of the proceeds going to an educational fund to support the kids shot on location in San Bernardino.
“I am hoping people will be touched by the work because they definitely need some support,” Fodoreanu says.
Born in Romania, Fodoreanu joined his family in the tradition of icon painting and photography.
“When I got my first camera, it was a manual Russian camera and if you don’t move the film, it will double expose things. I made this mistake. But it is more of a play on my life. It is a double exposure. I am a pediatrician and a photographer as well,” Fodoreanu reminisced.
Fodoreanu is a full-time Kaiser pediatrician at Otay Mesa, but even during his training to become a doctor, he continued to take photos.
Fodoreanu’s work focuses on “figure photography,” which he describes as an impression of a figure.
“‘Figure’ meaning anything that has a shape: a body, a tree, a leaf, a combination of them, a shadow,” he says. Fodoreanu rapidly jumped into San Diego’s art scene, selected as one of the four local talent art visionaries by the Art San Diego 2019. He eventually won.
His 500-square-foot studio sits on the west side of Barracks 15, a former Naval Training Center recently turned flourishing artistic hub. Fodoreanu started an expansive search for an art gallery throughout cities like San Francisco and Philadelphia but picked the Arts District Liberty Station to open his first studio.
“Arts District’ is the future of arts here in San Diego. There are so many artists in one spot, the support you get here is amazing,” Fodoreanu says.
The studio’s mission is to create a space of photography free of political constraints. It aims to look at humanity at its purest, with raw fundamental emotions, ideas and esthetics. Fodoreanu expressed his hope for the future, “I want to be my own gallery, but I also want to be a gallery for local emerging San Diego photographers and mixed media.
“Trying to be an artist and show your work, it’s not easy,” Fodoreanu says, believing he is in a position to help the art community.
“We want to be an open gallery. If your quality of work is good, you’re in.”