I came across the work of Ioana Moldovan through a friend, so… allow me, thank you Javi!
I was struck by Ioana’s work and in particular by the amazing set, “A different kind of story”.
It’s a black and white set of images captured by the heart of this talented photographer.
“A different kind of story” is a very mature photographic work.
On one hand, the images of these communities are a serious portrait of something real and, sad as it may be, so present in all our countries.
On the other hand, Ioana picked up the right tools to capture and express her vision as a photographer but also as a human being.
I’ve also discovered that behind those images is a kind person and I would like to thank Ioana for taking the time to answer my questions.
First of all who is Ioana Moldovan?
Ioana Moldovan is just a person in love with photography who does not like to talk a lot about herself and prefers to let images speak instead.
I’ve been looking at that set of images and my main question is: what’s that? Where’s that? Please explain a bit.
During the communist regime in Romania, but mostly under Ceausescu’s presidency (even if dictatorship would be a more correct word), several working colonies have been built. They were meant to host the workforce in the mining, industrial and agricultural areas. A lot of people have been deployed in these “communities”, convinced or even forced to work in the surrounding mines, factories or farms.
The story is not about the colonies during that period. Instead, it reviews what happened to them after the communism was eradicated. With the ’89 revolution taking place, the changes brought by capitalism, including the decay of the above mentioned industries, these places were left for ruin. The people living there, lacking other possibilities or opportunities, continued to reside in these settlements, despite of the continuously worsened living conditions. Many of them miss out on electricity, current water, heat. Most of the adults are unemployed, as the jobs they were deployed for are long gone, professional reorientation not quite at hand and financial possibilities to move, non-existent. As for the children, most of them have to walk considerable distances to get to a school.
I focused especially on the children living there. Maybe because there was never a place where I did not hopelessly fall in love with one or more of them But for sure because I was impressed by their spirit, generosity and kindness. By their ability to smile, even under these circumstances.
Promises were made by authorities to rebuild these places or to relocate the people. With every election coming, hopes raised and with ever election finished, hopes died. I wish I could have done more to help these people living in these forgotten places, in a world of poverty and broken promises. I did not know how, so I just tried to present their story through these images.
So far, the photos were taken in: Aninoasa, two colonies named Baraci (Barracks) and Orasul de carton (Cardboard Town), in Anina – Orasul Nou, in Lonea, near Petrila, in Altin Tepe , in Horea (Baia Mare), in Gaesti. But there are more.
I hope I did not get to carried away with talking about it.
What was the people’s response about having someone taking pictures of them living in such hard conditions? You were not trying to be “invisible” and you went into their homes, took pictures of their children…
Well, reactions were different. Some people were hospitable from the start, other people were more reluctant or even violent, in terms of language. The idea is to take the time to talk to them and to explain what you are trying to do, to be patient and friendly, to try to understand their concerns.
And because you mentioned the word “invisible”, I wanted to add that actually is a desideratum for a journalist. But not in terms of sneaking in without being noticed, but to be a part of that community you are documenting for so long, that people do not “see” you anymore, nor your camera and by ignoring you, they give you access to their true self and real life. So, in this way, I wish I was invisible.
They all seem proud and they don’t hide from the camera…
Why should they hide from the camera? Poverty should not be a reason to be ashamed of. I don’t deny life is a question of will, but please believe me, it is also a big question of luck. And all that most of these people and especially children did wrong, is be unlucky not to be born with other possibilities.
I see destroyed buildings, I imagine people living in severe conditions, I see children playing with whatever they can put their hands on… It’s very documental, what were you after in terms of concept?
As I mentioned before, the conditions in which some of these people are living are very severe: no heat, no electricity, no clean water, no school nearby for the children. And I did not want this as a series of concept, I wanted it as a series of reality.
What equipment did you use on these shots?
I do most of my photographs, including this series, on film; except maybe in poor lighting conditions, when I used digital. I really don’t consider the camera model is very important, as long as it offers you the speed and versatility you need. In terms of lenses, I prefer fixed lenses; for a period of time the 20mm was my favorite, then I switched to 35mm and stick to it.
Does film still thrills you and, by the way, do you develop your own films?
Film never stopped thrilling me And it never will. Unfortunately, as I don’t work as a photographer, I do not have enough time to also develop my films. And I really do prefer spending my spear time actually shooting photos, being around people, rather than being in a lab around chemicals.
Did you went back there to show them the results?
I went back to just one of the colonies so far, but not really to show them the results. I just wanted to go and visit a little boy there. He really got to my heart the first time I was there and I missed him ever since.
Where does this particular set fit in your work?
I think this is my longest project so far, in terms of spreading across the years. And the dearest to my heart. And also a constant reminder that I should have done more.
What are your plans for the future?
Live and take photos.