Posts Tagged ‘countryside’

Holbav – a trip into the past

November 23, 2009

holbavI finally got a chance to shoot what I wanted, the way I wanted in a small Transylvanian village called Holbav. That’s where the photo of me in the oxen cart was taken (last post).

Though Holbav is only about 20km away from Brasov (the region’s largest city) it is a world away in terms of everything else.  Not much would have changed here over the last 100 years or so. Incredibly, there is still no electricity, no running water and none of the other comforts taken for granted in the “modern” Europe. In other words in many ways the village is representative of what a lot of Romania must have been like a long while ago. This is exactly what I wanted to photograph.

My time in Holbav, though very short, was intense. There are times when I want to limit what I know about a place. I think not knowing helps me to be open to only the positive aspects and to concentrate purely on my photography. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case here.

It’s a long story not worth getting into on the blog, but the bottom line is, I found out too much. That the place is not perfect, that life there is hard and the hardships sometimes have a negative impact on people, naturally. Though my experience was 99% great, being aware of the brute, savage and cruel qualities that occasionally come out of the local population was not something I wanted.

In any case, here are some images from this fascinating village.

hay-collectingDominicu collecting hay, which had been drying for a couple of weeks prior.

tony-workin Tony packing hay for winter storage.

oxen Ioan and his oxen. Apparently they are pretty old. Ioan used voice commands and beat the crap out of them to get the desired results. It was often a pitiful scene, which is better communicated through video, which I also made, but cannot share until I reach a fast internet connection.

old-man I don’t remember this old gentleman’s name, though I met him twice. He was a lovely fellow, but sure looked like he was drinking a lot, the second time I saw him.

kerosene-lampNo electricity means that kerosene lamps. replace light-bulbs. Here Ioan hangs the lamp on one of the few hooks that exist around his house.

Next stop – Maramures – supposedly it’s a photographer’s paradise in many ways. We’ll see. 🙂

The elders of Braslavschina

November 2, 2009

Father-Timothy-Port

I am getting ready to drive from Belarus to Romania via Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, but here’s a post before I go.

I’ve said goodbye to Braslavschina, the region which I fell in love with over my time there. Well, it’s goodbye for at least a month and a half, not forever. 🙂

There are a few things which I absolutely love about Braslavschina, but it should come as no surprise that for a photographer of people the best part of any journey is the interaction with the locals. The locals I enjoyed interacting with in particular are the elders of Braslavschina, the fascinating men and women who despite living such tough lives, often even in their old age, remain so generally positive and even naive in the sense that they are pure of the cynicism that fills the world in which they live.

I often heard different variations of the same phrase from the older generation in Braslavschina. “Our lives used to be so difficult before, now everything is so much easier. It’s possible to really live now, pity there’s not much living left.” They would say this with a somewhat sad smile, but a smile nevertheless.

In any case, here are some of the elders of Braslavschina which I had the pleasure to meet and chat with.

Goat

We met these two ladies along the road. I simply couldn’t resist the scene, stopped my car and approached this “trio”. I asked where they were heading and got a pretty hilarious reply – “We’re taking the goat to his girlfriend.” Said the woman in the dark coat. “Yes, we’re taking the goat so he can have sex”. Said the woman in red and giggled. It turned out that they were sisters and Yulia, the one in the dark coat, with the bicycle was a pretty fascinating character. We hung out with her a bit, talked and took some more photos.

babulya-horse

Yulia is 76 years old, she used to work at the stables when she was young and says that she knows everything there is to know about horses. I was a little shocked when she lifted her leg like this to put the reigns on one of her own horses.

edward

Speaking of horses, Edward was looking for two horses that his grandson had tied up somewhere in the area not far from his home. When I approached, he had actually mistaken me for one of those horses. At 86 he lost most of his sight and almost all of his hearing too. Not a good combination. I told him that his horses where nowhere in sight and then after driving ahead realized that they were about 200 meters behind a patch a location which Edward had no chance of arriving at by himself. We drove Edward to the horses, expecting that he wanted to take them home for the night. All the wanted to do however, was feed one of them apples and check that everything was fine.

Father-Timothy-Chat

Father Timothy, (also pictured at the top of the post) worked as an engineer in the government collective farming system most of his life. By chance he had learned some old Russian language as a child and remembered some prayers from the “Old Russian Orthodox Faith”. When the church father passed away, Timothy was approached by the local devotees to take on the responsibility of leading the prayers. After a year of studying (at the age of 65) and leading prayers he was blessed by the “Old Russian Orthodox” Church and sworn in as a Father himself. We had a good chat with Father Timothy, what impressed me most about him was his openness and lack of religious fanaticism. He said: “What happens in the afterlife? I doubt that anyone of us will know the answer while we’re here. I always say that the most important thing is to lead a decent life, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Babulya-and-Dog

Though we spent almost an hour chatting to this kind old lady, we never got her name. The wheel in the corner is still used for weaving and at the time of our visit she had actually begun to weave socks for her grandson who visited her every now and then. The dog on the bed is named “Bobik” that name is about the equivalent of Fido in the English-speaking world. She said that Bobik was lucky to be let in indoors. He quickly jumped on the bed and made himself comfortable. Good for me, I feel he adds to the shot.

That’s all for now folks. The next time you’ll hear from me, I’ll be…don’t even know where.

The lonely Yosef Dorozhko

October 16, 2009

In-the-darkAbout a week ago we met a wonderful man by the name of Yosef. I spotted him from my car while he was pushing his bicycle up a hill. Immediately I wanted to photograph him. I turned the car around, caught up to Yosef and asked him if I could take a few photos. He smiled and said to go ahead.

We spoke a bit, after learning that Yosef was 81 I was a little shocked. His bike journey wasn’t an easy one, even for a young person (there was lots of pedaling up hills to be done) and here he was carrying on very casually. I sorta invited myself over to his house and asked if I could take a few more photos there. He didn’t mind.

And so began our friendship with Yosef. It turned out that his life had taken a very unfortunate turn of late. He lost his wife and both of his sons fairly recently. He also lost his apartment in the neighboring Latvia, because the cost of all the bills exceeded his meager pension. Yosef had to go back to Belarus, to live in the house where he was born 81 years ago. To make his story more sad, the house where he now lives is fairly isolated and ever since his parents built it, there has never been any electricity. Yosef makes light with Kerosene lamps and instead of watching TV, he reads, prays and talks to his cats.

The crazy thing is, he never really complains about anything. He doesn’t drink uncontrollably, like many younger and much more fortunate people in the neighboring villages. He just goes on about his life the best he can, still managing to crack an occasional smile along the way. Yosef inspired me by his resilience and it seems like our visits to his home have given him a reason to crack that smile more frequently. Tanya and I have gone to talk to the authorities and hopefully he will have electricity some time in the not too distant future.

Dedulya-working-2 Yosef has a horse. It was time for him to work on the land during one of our visits and of course that presented a great photo opportunity.RainbowI got pretty lucky during my little photo-shoot. It had been raining most of the day, but soon after I arrived at Yosef’s house there was an opening in the sky. I got some good light and even a rainbow.

By-the-ovenYosef adjusts fire-wood in the oven which he himself made. He was heating up a kettle to make tea for us.

Braslav_MG_2484

Tea time. Yosef sets up the tea glasses and the food for his guests.

Meeting people like Yosef again reminds me of how lucky I am to be doing what I do. These countless chances to meet inspirational people are something I enjoy immensely and when there is an opportunity to have a positive impact on the life of someone like Yosef, that’s sort of like the essence of being human.

More images to come.

Into the Light: Amateur Photographer Magazine

September 17, 2009

APmag

This month there is a 6 page feature on my work in the “Amateur Photographer” – possibly the longest running photographic publication in the world. The article is called “Into the light” (as you can see above), fitting, considering the recent release of my eBook.

apmag1

I’m excited about this one. The interviewer was great and really tried to get to the essence of what I do from a practical perspective. As a result the feature is a “to-the-point” look at my photography and at how I shoot. I hope they send me a copy, it’s still kinda exciting to see my work in print. The magazine (weekly publication) is available in the UK and Australia, and perhaps in other  English speaking countries.

My website was finally included and there’s even a very quick plug for my eBooks. If you’re a reader of my blog you’ll know that I’ve had a few frustrating experiences with people forgetting to include my website into the magazines, so I’m real glad about everything working out just as I had hoped.

Speaking of the eBooks, I want to thank everyone who bought them over the past couple of weeks and a special thanks to everyone who spread the word about them. The response was even better than the first time. The income will give me the freedom to move around and shoot the subjects that interest me, and that’s all a photographer can ask for.

Right now my wife and I are at her sister’s apartment in Northern Belarus. We’ve stopped here on the way to Braslav – an area which is supposed to have some fascinating traditional (relatively) villages. I’m really glad to get away from Minsk! It takes only a couple of weeks of being in the city to remember why it felt depressing, even when I was a 10-year-old. The overwhelming, oppressing communist architecture and city planning might be fascinating over a short visit, but not if you have to live amongst all that crap. It feels like everything was planned to make the individual feel insignificant. You walk for hundreds of meters from one shop to the next, the streets are wide enough to fit a football field, but at the same time, the apartments in which people live are tiny and stacked on top of each other over 9 stories and more. In short I have no love for Minsk.

On the way to Novopolotsk (where Tanya’s sister lives) I saw the romantic, beautiful side of Belarus – green meadows, stacks of hay, forests and villages. This is what I came here for and this is what I finally have a chance to shoot.

Well, that’s all for now. Tomorrow I’m off to Braslav, I pray to the “photography Gods” to give me what I seek.