I’m leaving Romania today and going back to The Netherlands, and it’s also the last day of the year and the last 2014 post on Passepartout, and somehow it feels just right to show you these photos. Hajdu Tamas doesn’t only seem to be at the right place at the right time, he actually has an eye for everything I love in Romania – the bitter-sweet, the absurd, the sentimental and the everyday surprising with an Eastern flavor. I think the kind of things he photographs are everywhere here, if you pay attention. And for some reason that fails me, many people see this as a mark of inadequacy and not of something to embrace and enjoy.
Let’s just say many things go wrong in Romania and some are more important than others. But it’s already way too common to put everything that it’s out of the ordinary in the same pot with what really needs to change, and then complain and criticize. The Romanian ego (if there is such a thing) is also easily touched, on one side we’d like to be loved by other, ‘more civilized countries’, and on the other side, since they don’t seem to love us much, we also start defending ourselves sometimes exaggeratedly, often unnecessarily, displaying an over the top pride, the kind animals display when they’re worried. I wrote about something similar before, when The New York Times published a photo of a New Years per-christian Romanian tradition that was automatically interpreted as animal abuse. The interpretation was ridiculous but the reactions of the Romanians were also ridiculous, and now I noticed a couple of that kind of passive-aggressive/offensive-defensive comments on Feature Shoot, that published Tamas’ photos last week.
Perhaps it’s time to let go the perception that Romania – and Eastern Europe for that matter – is some sort of failed Western Europe and it would catch up if only it tried enough. Things are more complex than that. And what I know is that if you try to understand a place by comparing it with another, you’ll miss the best of it and you won’t understand what it actually is, in its own logic. Many things should change indeed but many should stay really. Romania is a bit of these photos below, and also the place where I grew up and the place that made me. It is the place I miss for its daily stories, the stuck up old people, the improvisations, the absurd circumstanced I unavoidably end up in. It’s a place where people often have a bit too much ‘magical thinking’. It’s the place where I know this old lady with a huge heart that fearfully houses 40 cats and always has a tail coming out of her jacket. It’s the place where a week ago I went to the dentist and while sitting there, mouth open, a priest came in singing loud and then both him and the pious dentist ended up telling about their bus trips through Europe, wondering how Venetians can live on water, while I was basically just sitting there. It’s a place to which you’d better bring your sense of humor and some calm. But also an open heart. And I promise you’ll be surprised.
Wish you all a great 2015, full of particularities and surprises!