29 January 2009

28 January 2009

On assignment for the NGO Ovidiu Rom outside Bucharest

Today I was privileged to tag along in the field with the charming Nadia and Dana from Leslie Hawke's (the American actor Ethan's mother) NGO called Ovidiu Rom which seeks to help put impoverished Romanian children in school. We drove outside Bucharest to the small village of Vizuresti and spent the day teaching kindergarteners as well as knocking on doors and speaking with parents in the hopes of getting their children to come to school. Leslie came to Romania first in 2000 with the Peace Corps and then started Ovidiu Rom in 2001. She is doing humanitarian work of the first order. It was truly a joy to participate. Here are a few images and the larger edit can be seen here.

Nadia makes house calls.

Dana plays with the kindergarteners.

A Roma child.

Dana and Nadia discussing on our way out of Vizuresti.

26 January 2009

Ceausescu's Birthday

Today, Nicolae Ceausescu would have been 91. I went to Ghencea Cemetery here in central Bucharest where he and his wife Elena are buried. Amidst the rain in the course of an hour I saw three Romanian tourist men come to see the Ceausescu graves as well as a couple who were younger than me who affixed a brand new name plate to Elena's grave. This totally astounded me as I expected to only see nostalgic pensioners. When I asked the guy if it was better under Ceausescu (as he obviously thought it was) he said that capitalism is criminal. I laughed all the time thinking that his girl wouldn't have her purse or jeans or that coat she was wearing had it not been for Ceausescu's overthrow. I wanted to ask him, 'oh, ok, so Communist blocs and streets without drains and thousands of stray dogs and paranoid citizens and censorship and a closed border and no abortion rights etc. etc. etc. all made Romania better than a free and open society where at least there is the potential for change!?' When I see a couple like this I realize just how backward Romania can be. For me it was funny to be staring at Ceausescu's diminutive grave and be thinking that for most of the hour, I, an American, was the only one in the company of the ruthless dictator who had wrought such destruction on Romania and the Romanian psyche. I am sure that he could never have imagined that in 2009, on his birthday, the only person around would be some American!

21 January 2009

Contract to photograph for the American Chamber of Commerce in Bucharest

The assignment went well yesterday on the streets of Bucharest even if the paranoia of Communism still lingers. Today, I met with the American-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and have negotiated a deal to photograph their occasional events.

19 January 2009

On assignment for Courrier Japon in Bucharest on 1/20

I will be one of 100 photographers gathered worldwide tomorrow by Courrier Japon to shoot pictures around the theme of 'hope' on Barack Obama's inauguration day. My photos along with all the other work will appear in the February issue of the magazine as well as in a book. The list of photographers is impressive including some of my fellow Anzenberger friends and a few from Magnum, VII and VU as well as many other top shooters.

16 January 2009

Winter in Bucharest

This Balkan capital that I now call home was wrecked by Ceausescu. Today, it seems to be finally crawling out from under the dark spell cast on it by the dictator. Top of the range BMWs and Mercs line the streets, fashionistas finger iPhones and consumerism is taking root. But it is doubtful that it will regain its status of 'Little Paris' that it enjoyed before World War II. Communism forever changed the landscape of the place and the psyche of Romanians. Something new is being formed.

12 January 2009

A look at Ceausescu's Bucharest

The Romanian photographer Andrei Pandele has just come out with a book titled 'Surprise Witness' with pictures of Ceausescu's Bucharest. Just fascinating!

"Obviously, we were not allowed to denounce Communism and precious few people could even comprehend its bogus rules and regulations, much less subvert slavery and find a way to express themselves. Even snapping and charming, everyday photo posed a problem. Because we had simply lost our bearings. Needless to say, any 'political' photography was strictly forbidden, unless officially approved. But clandestine creativity was less easy to prevent. Thus appeared Andrei Pandele, someone who systematically and subversively photographed anything and everything, with the precision of a craftsman and the discipline of a Professional. A gritty realist, but above all an artist. His range is vast – this book is no mere collection of the macabre or ghoulish. Andrei Pandele is also intrigued by lives suspended precariously above the abyss, by time and space, by the poetry of everyday objects, by things words cannot convey". Petru Romosan.

10 January 2009

Nomination for next year's Joop Swart Masterclass

I'll be one of the young photographers submitting portfolios to World Press Photo in an effort to win one of the 12 coveted spots at the masterclass.

03 January 2009

Happy New Year from Bucharest!

I spent New Year's Eve traipsing alone around Bucharest. Here's a shot along Boulevard Unirii leading up to the infamous Palace of Parliament, the second largest building in the world and part of Ceaucescu's megalomaniacal vision of the 1980s that leveled a sixth of Bucharest so it could be remodeled based upon the grandiose avenues of Kim II Sung's North Korea.

For the uninitiated, a nice little video from the streets of the city: