Photo Romania Festival 2012: Heart of the Mountains

As if there weren’t enough festivals to visit in Cluj-Napoca already!

Photo Romania Festival is the largest event of its kind in the country: with over 150 photographic events from exhibitions and workshops to competitions and cultural events, it is a gathering of the Romanian photography community and international enthusiasts in one place.

So where is the festival taking place? Well, it’s all around us. Perhaps you have already visited an exhibition and not even realised. There are 100 venues hosting photo exhibitions during the festival: art galleries, public and commercial places and cafes as well as some more unexpected places. During the festival, visitors have had the chance to visit more unusual venues hosting temporary photography exhibitions: the central railway station, 5-star hotels, smokey underground bars, and the city’s abandoned buildings.

The festival spans a huge range of themes and styles, and there is bound to be an exhibition to suit every taste whether you are interested in wildlife captured in its natural habitat, landscapes of far-flung destinations, fashion photography or surrealist and conceptual art.

One theme that is receiving considerable attention from the participating photographers is the traditional way of life in some of Transylvania’s rural communities. Each photographer spent considerable amount of time within these communities as an outside observer documenting traditional craftsmanship and lifestyle.

However, as the photographers became increasingly immersed in the lives of these rural communities, they began to feel an irresistible connection with this unique and rapidly vanishing way of life. went to investigate further…

First up was the portrait photographer and photo-journalist Daniel Penciuc whose exhibition ‘Jobs and Crafts’ captures the traditional and endangered way of life in small Romanian villages. Travelling through remote villages in the Bucovina, Maramures, Brasov county and the Apuseni Mountain, he captures the lives of men working as black-smiths, charcoal makers and tree harvesters in stark black and white and silhouette.

Of these communities he says ‘If we travel in back time we find beautiful villages in the Alba county, hundreds of houses and happy people. However, today we find 10 to 12 households scattered on the hills, people with no joy and no hope of a better future.’

Spending time working alongside these craftsmen in remote mountain villages, he has many stories of their time together: ‘Suddenly we see in the distance, riding up the hill slope… not Prince Charming, it is a traditional Apuseni lumberjack with a chainsaw, dressed in a LA hat and overalls. There was no escape, the girls approached him on the flanks. I approached him directly and went to work – shoot with the lumberjack in Apuseni.’

It was a shame the exhibition was tucked down in the basement of the somewhat bland Cafe Carolina (Piata Muzeului nr 6.) The exhibition runs until June 17th.

Translated and edited from Daniel Penciuc’s website.

Being the epicenter of photographic community in Cluj (not bad for rock music and a coffee either), Zorki Photography Cafe on Strada Ioan Ratiu nr.10 is holding not one but two simultaneous exhibitions as part of the Photo Romania Festival. Dia Somogyi’s exhibition ‘Times gone by in Apuseni’ captured the last traces of traditional life in the untamed depths of the Apuseni range.

Dia Somogyi describes the experience of working in this region: ‘I chose to visually tell a small part of the mysteries the Apuseni Mountains. Why? It’s simple: I love high mountains and sharp ridges. Walking through the mountains taking photographs became a way of life. I tried with every image captured on the mountains to express something beyond words, about where I feel at home.’

‘Apuseni  is surely one of the most sad but beautiful mountain universes ever encountered.  [There is a] simultaneous feeling of irreversible time and yet timelessness. It hurts me every year shows more and more houses demolished and one more Apusei soul ascended to heaven. I strongly believe that if you have even experienced time with one soul in Apuseni, you will be in love forever and never again be able to stay away!’ The exhibition runs until the June 17th.

Translated and edited from Photo Romania website.

Radu Lazar is a native of Sighet, Maramures currently living and working in Cluj Napoca. However, he returned to Maramures for a two-year project based on the traditional craftsmen of Maramures. The exhibition presents some of the last remaining craftsmen keeping the tradition of craftsmanship alive in this historic region.

The exhibition is advertised as being in Avram Iancu Square. Unfortunately the exhibition was nowhere to be found. However, the following photos are supplied from Radu Lazar’s blog, and if anyone happens to find the exhibition be sure to let me know!


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