Post-Industrial Stories (2012 – ongoing) by Ioana Cirlig and Marin Raica (both from Romania) shows documentary story-telling at its best. Just like the American photographer Dorothea Lange back in the 1930s, Ioana and Marin take us on a road-trip across post-industrial Romania. The couple travels across the country, documenting the effects of communist industrialisation and more recent transition to a market economy (and hence de-industrialisation) on local communities and natural landscape. In the grand scheme of things, they are in fact posing questions about the abuse of power and its consequences on ordinary people – community depression, mass unemployment, and poverty, so common in the post-industrial areas of Romania.
The project started in 2012, when Ioana and Marin decided to travel across their homeland and live for at least few months in every single town they photograph in order to integrate into local communities (as much as they were allowed to) and see as much as possible. ‘Having time to spend with a story’ was crucial, as they stressed in an interview with Camera Lucia – it gave them the luxury of being able to amend their plans and reformulate their original ideas. Even though Post-Industrial Stories is a selection of single images shot over a long period of time and in many different places, that luxury of having time is clearly visible and leads to a substantial coherence of the entire project. The sense of continuity and belonging – even if only partial – to the local communities are really tactile and heartfelt. The photographers didn’t simply turn up on people’s doorstep demanding a quick and easy access to their private lives – they packed their suitcases (and cameras), and moved on, from one town to another, getting to know the people and places they wanted to document.
What I personally love about this series and what makes it stand out for me is the clarity of vision and lack of romance. A lot of photography produced on the Romanian soil tends to romanticise the image of the country, referring to the archetypal and stereotypical Romania – the country of Count Dracula, and villagers still washing their clothes in a nearby stream. Post-Industrial Stories shows us the ugly Romania and uncovers its inherent beauty.