19 December 2009
I just learned I am an honorable mention in this great contest for a series of pictures from my Bucharest 20 Years Later work. Read about it here. The three images and text below are what I submitted for review.
Since 2000 I have been transfixed by the Eastern European country of Romania. Immediately after finishing college I even went and lived for a year with peasants in a village in the Carpathian mountains lost somewhere in the 18th century. Today, I work from the capital Bucharest and in this 20th anniversary year of The Fall of Communism and The Romanian Revolution I am attempting to capture aspects of the current state of this city that suffered the worst of the former Eastern Bloc Communist regimes under dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
By 1989, Romania was a police state akin to North Korea with the feared Securitate (secret police) waging a war of psychological oppression against ordinary Romanians. Ceausescu starved his own people and, at the end, shops were empty and electricity and heat intermittent. While economic progress was slow in the 1990s, the last five years have seen nothing less than astounding change as banks began to make loans and the entire population went on a shopping spree for the first time. Almost overnight top of the range BMWs and Mercedes flooded the streets, hip fashions appeared and trendy cafes and restaurants opened everywhere. Yet Bucharest is still plagued with myriad problems. The society has never fully confronted its past and former Securitate continue to operate within the government. Romania is famous for its fatalism having suffered centuries of foreign domination long before its 40 years of totalitarian rule, and today the majority of the population seems to have accepted the rampant corruption.
Through photographing the fashions and trendy new life along with remnants of the Communist regime I am seeking to translate the enigma of Bucharest. The reportage is less a photojournalistic documentary but what one foreigner seeks to find in Bucharest 20 years later. It remains to be seen what will become of the city once known between The World Wars as ‘The Paris of the East’.