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Subsign Spotlight #067.

We are stunned with the magic she creates through her cinemagraphs. Discovering Zavatos’ Instagram was a real gem.

Zavatos: Howdy! My name is Maria Zavate, but online you’ll find me as Zavatos. I am a graphic designer working in Bucharest (schooled in Iasi in History of Art and Graphic Design) and a cinemagrapher (I suppose you won’t find this word in a dictionary :)) ) on Instagram.

My main social media activity is there. I always felt like it’s the perfect platform for me. A place where I can share my vision over the world in a creative way to a community I can control at some level (meaning I can reach people with a similar vision), unlike on Facebook, where people hardly know the limit between private and public space and where you have no control over your content and how it’s used.

Subsign: What was your childhood like? Do you think your experiences from childhood have influenced your present creative endeavors?

Zavatos: It definitely influenced me big time. I grew up at the countryside, with my toes and my hands in the dirt, playing with my cats and dogs and chickens (always many), playing hide and seek across the village with my childhood friends, working on the field.

You get my point: I was always in the middle of nature, in the middle of nowhere actually, eating and living in the most genuine way and you can see that if you scroll in my feed for no more than 5 seconds.

Subsign: What did you want to be as a grown up?

Zavatos: This might sound odd, but I wanted to have a job that would allow me to get into people’s houses and take a look at their interiors :)). I didn’t know what interior design is at that time, but it seems like I always had a thing for it, as I do know. I used to imagine I can do that every time we drove by car somewhere.

Subsign: How does your workstation look like?

Zavatos: Haha! I wish I had one, but I am all over. My visuals require me to work on location and I do the postproduction work wherever I can carry my laptop to.

Subsign: Do you have a work style? How would you describe it?

Zavatos: My personal projects are definitely moody, resembling film photography and old school stuff, but on a daily basis (on Insta Stories for instance) and in commercial projects, I am more on the positive-colorful-humor side.

I always try to make my visuals with a smart catch, in order to make people stop for a few seconds and think of it. It either makes them smile or reflect.

Subsign: Can you share with us how your creative process works?

Zavatos: The project comes – the ideas pop up – first I sketch them (you should see my sketches! They are hilarious but they DO work, otherwise my brain takes the ideas in the trash bin and good luck getting them out of there) – then I take my gear and go shoot the thing – then I take everything in my computer and start editing – export – Instagram – done – chilling on my mental yacht.

Subsign: What is your favorite work you have done so far?

Zavatos: I love working on my monthly cinemagraphs, each one representing a month in a feeric sort of way (I have a hashtag, #ZavatosCalendar, where people can see them all), hoping that at the end of the year I’ll come up with a printed calendar.

The hardest one was the one I made for February. It froze the heck out of me, but my father assisted and it was very funny and challenging. As for the commercial projects, I loved working for ZipUp and for initiative. It wasn’t easy but I’m proud of what came up in the end.

Subsign: Who do you follow for inspiration?

Zavatos: My favorite artist in the world is Jamie Beck. She and Kevin Burg invented the term of “cinemagraph”. They were the pioneers of what I am doing now.

She is a huge inspiration not only for my creative process, but she taught me to look at things in a different manner, in tiny details. I pay loads of attention to details that people ignore every day. And I don’t mean puffy clouds and crazy sunsets.

Subsign: What advice would you give to someone starting out in the creative field of work?

Zavatos: Invest in your education first and in your gear after, not the other way around. Education can come in a lot of forms these days.

Keep yourself engaged in constantly watching movies, art, travels, reading. These things create a map in your brain and the dots connect in such unexpected ways you will surprise yourself.

Ideas don’t come out of nowhere. You have to feed them. It’s a never-ending process, but it’s the most important. Everyone can learn how to use gear and software, but you can’t fix esthetic, artistic and cultural education gaps with a tutorial on youtube and an expensive camera.

That is the one thing that will make you unique in a world of amazingly talented creatives. It is not a competition, but it is a challenge. 

Subsign: If you would have a superpower, what would it be?

Zavatos: I would like to be invisible. To sneak into people’s houses and do my dream job from childhood :)). I am kidding!

Invisibility would allow me to shoot without people looking awkward at me while I do my thing. It’s very hard to do creative stuff with a huge tripod and camera in a city like Bucharest without anyone interrupting by staring.

Subsign: Can you recommend for our readers a book, a song, and a movie?

Zavatos: Anything from Dostoievski (I know, I’m so basic), anything from London Grammar (I am still a fan even if they didn’t come to Electric although I bought the ticket just for them) and anything from Denis Villeneuve, my favorite movie director at this moment.

Subsign: If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like and what would it be for?

Zavatos: I would do it for no reason and everyone should wear something to fit my vintage interbelic theme with music from The Flamingos. Of course, I should need a proper house and some good cash to do it right, but it’s on my mind. 😀

Subsign: What famous people would you invite to the party and why?

Zavatos: Chris Pratt and Hugh Jackman and Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans and…oh my, this sounds like some very private “you can’t tell your kids about it” kind of party :))).

Seriously now, famous people would make me feel uncomfortable. It happened on a smaller scale when I met some of the so-called “influencers”.

It’s just cringe and makes me want to find a pile of sand to stick my head in. For me, it’s enough to follow famous people from the comfort of my chair, but meeting them would break the magic.

Fame is not a natural condition of men. It changes everything in a way that affects the true genuine persona.

Thank you, Zavatos, for being a part of it!

If you know an artist that should be in the spotlight, contact us at .

For more of Zavatos’ work, you can follow her on the links: Zavatos’ Instagram, Zavatos’ Portfolio


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"Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard."

Guy Kawasaki