Posts Tagged ‘Romania’

Romanian adventure comes to an end.

December 1, 2009

Farmer And so, my very short adventure in Romania has come to an end. It was not anywhere near long enough to even scratch the surface here photographically, but I did get a glimpse into a couple of regions in this fascinating country.

The last stop was Maramures, a region which I heard hadn’t changed much over the past couple of centuries.  Perhaps it was silly to believe this, but for some reason I did or perhaps just hoped that it would be true.

In reality Maramures was both – as amazing as I thought it might be and at the same time more visually abhorring than I could have imagined. It seems that in Eastern Europe things change even faster than in Asia and just as is the case with Asia, progress here is not a thing of beauty.

For whatever reason those who have been denied prosperity for so long seem to have a very crass way of showing that prosperity once they obtain it, with disregard for anything that existed before them. Traditional villages of wooden houses which seem to have been built in harmony with the landscape with consideration for the surroundings are very  few and far between in most of Maramures these days. They are being knocked down, replaced with huge (and I mean huge) brick and cement structures, which have about as much character as you might expect a concrete slab to have.

This “modernization” thing is a story I’ve seen throughout my travels around different countries. I don’t know how it ends, but I do feel that it’s very worthwhile for a photographer to capture what hasn’t been swallowed up by the so called progress. Luckily in Maramures a little bit of magic still remains. While many of the people are living in the soulless structures, they themselves haven’t lost their souls, nor what makes them visually unique to other Europeans. Perhaps most pleasantly, a lot of them are just as kind and as hospitable as their parents must have taught them to be.

I was reminded a little of India, when the locals almost forced their hospitality upon us, only in India the hospitality takes on the form of tea and food, while in Maramures you have to drink their toxic home-made “Tsuika”, a 50 + degree alcoholic beverage, strong enough to burn a whole in your stomach. After drinking five or six shots of it in the first day I decided that in reply to future offers it would be better for  me to drink a tiny bit of it, make a face and say that it is too strong for people from my country, which is not far from the truth.

I would have liked my trip to Maramures to have felt like a trip into a different world, into the past. It wasn’t quite like that, but as I drove my car through the mountains to the Hungarian border, passing old cattle herders in traditional hats, women collecting hay in their unique attires, all while being surrounded by some of the more dramatic scenery one is likely to encounter, I realized – Maramures is still special. It’s not what I wanted it to be, but that doesn’t make it any less special in relation to the rest of the world.

Here are some images of what still remains of the magical Maramures.

sheep-in-the-morning Sheep on their way to be herded up in the hills.

terga-lapus-regionThat’s the view the shepherd has when he herds the village’s sheep.

funnymanWe met this man during a foggy afternoon in a small house, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I asked if we could take a few photos of him outside. He agreed. As I fired off a few frames, he kept asking – “Am I really that f—ing cool? Is that why you’re photographing me? I mean there are so many other people, but you chose me! I must be something special!

fog-dogThe man had quite a few “tsuikas” and just before he left he decided to chase the dog around. The dog was surprised.

Rural-boy At the same place we found this great, young character. I loved his attire – a child’s sweater with an image of a sheep and a grown man’s suit and trousers.

pigfeedingA village woman after feeding her piglets. The villagers of Maramures are very proud of their animals and gladly show them to anyone half-interested.

oldmanVlad, one of my traveling companions and I met this elder at the front of his traditional house. We asked if we could come inside and see what it’s like. He let us in and posed for a few photographs. He’s 88 years old and all alone, so I think he was happy to chat to us for a while.

magical-morningMagical morning in the hills. It’s foggy almost every day during this time of year. When it’s not cloudy, the scenery can be rather special.

cattlemarket Morning at the cattle market.

pumpkinsVillage woman chopping up pumpkins.

I feel a world away from Romania as I type this entry from my room in Krakow, Poland. It’s been a frustrating couple of days since I left Romania, as I had a lot of my things stolen from my car during my overnight stay in Bratislava, Slovakia. Luckily most of the photography related stuff was with me in the hostel room, but I did have to search all of Krakow for a new battery charger for my Canon 5D MKII.

Tomorrow I hit the road again. After being re-united with my dear wife we have decided to drive to Slovenia. If my car makes it, that’s where I’ll be for the next few days.

That’s all for now.

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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. 🙂

Incredible Romania!

November 17, 2009

me-in-cart

First: The eBook sale is over. Thanks to everyone who purchased them, the response was a very pleasant surprise. To those who missed out – I may have another special some time down the line, so check the blog for details.

I’ve been in Romania for about a week. A lot of strong first impressions, but the recurring themes are awe and frustration.

I can’t think of many other places with such photogenic faces and landscapes, that’s the good part.  The frustrating part is that I really haven’t done any meaningful photography since I’ve been here. Language and shitty weather have been my biggest obstacles. While I was in Sibiu, one of Romania’s prettiest towns, the cloudy skies and flat light sucked out almost all of the town’s beauty. The clouds also hid the snow peaks of the mountains, I didn’t even know they existed, until the skies cleared a little on my way to Brasov, another picturesque Romanian town.

Finally my inability to speak Romanian has made it next to impossible to communicate in villages, the places where my ideal subjects live, where I want to do most of my shooting.

So far the trip has been much more about getting a feel for the country than anything else. I’m trying to see whether this is a place I’d like to return to, to dig deep and attempt to capture imagery, which I am sure one cannot find in too many other places on the planet. So far I haven’t seen enough, but I have been teased by getting a glimpse of potentially amazing scenarios and looking at the work of a couple of Romanian photographers.

One is Vlad Dumitrescu, a talented young photographer friend I met on OneX and later in person.  I’m actually typing this entry from his apartment. You can see his images HERE. The other is someone Vlad introduced me to – Sorin Onisor. I think he has become one of my new favorite photographers and his images have brought me to the verge of madness, thinking about the amazing photo opportunities that exist here. You can see Sorin’s work HERE. Doesn’t seem like the English version works, but the pictures are what matters, so do yourselves a favor and look at Romania through the eyes of someone who really understands this country.

I had some car trouble recently, but after forking out one fourth of the car’s cost to replace the clutch I am set to go spend some time in a small countryside village, one of very few non-commercialized villages here in Transylvania. It’ll be interesting to see what happens, hopefully  I can come up with something interesting and put up something more than the image you see of me at the top of the cart (taken by Vlad).

Ok folks, back soon.