The place was Cluj-Napoca, Romania. It was winter, a brutally cold February morning among the Carpathians.
I was seated in the fly-black, nicotine-glazed back room of a local dining establishment with friend and fellow photographer Bruce Haley. The eatery in question was just a stone’s throw from the train station. Washing down forkfuls of greasy mici with sweating tankards of Ursus beer, we awaited a (perpetually delayed) train that eventually would carry us through the broken, industrial outskirts of the city into the countryside.
And so with this humble repast began a month-long, 2,000-mile odyssey across Romania that would see us fasttalking our way out of an angry mob, wading ankle-deep through pig shit, staggering home through knotted alleyways after a dozen rounds of tuica, praying not to get blown up while crossing the Danube, and being alternately frisked for and threatened with firearms of varying calibers. This is not to say the trip didn’t have its charms.
At the time I was too green to think about arriving in Romania with a plan for a cohesive body of work. And the pictures in this exhibition reflect this fact; I like to think of them more as a visual diary than as a project per se.
French photographer Raymond Depardon summed up his working approach like this: “I was there. I took the picture. That’s how it is.” I respect the simplicity of this ethos: a complete opennes to the events one might encounter on the road, and an acceptance of the extent of one’s ability to record them. It’s with this same spirit that I share these pictures with you here. See where I was. See how I captured it on film. And draw your own conclusions.