It’s clear that this is an incident. This picture does not impress me because I am so used to seeing this kind of images on TV that it is not drawing any emotion. It is not asking any questions.

T: So what is happening in the picture?

Somebody wanted to shoot somebody and then the special troops came and they are trying to stop them.

T: And what do you think of this intervention?

It’s ok if the life of the people would be endangered, and probably it was.
But why are people standing so calmly, as they would be at the church, just looking at what happens? There’s a juxtaposition, it’s like being on a movie set.


After I better analyzed the picture, even though I saw them standing nicely, with us Romanians, you can expect this as well. We don’t have any civic spirit, so we stand like we would be at a show.

T: So you like this picture?

No, not really.

T: Why not?

It`s too common. My kids would probably say ”wow, the special troops!” and ”look at the gun”, but that would be it.

T: So this isn't unusual for you?

No, because we see so many of these things in mass-media that our mind becomes used to it.

(primary school teacher, Abrud)

I don’t want to say more now, because the conversation will get a bit tougher, and I don’t want to go there.

T: But I want an honest opinion.
From my point of view, I really don’t think this picture is representative for my country. What’s more representative is the fact that my mom welcomed you in her house without knowing who you are; the fact that I am employed and I work really hard, as my mother in law has done for 40 years. That’s what represents me.

That I have problems? For sure. But problems are everywhere in this world. It’s our fault that we accept you, whoever you are, Tomas to come ask me if I allow you to publish this photo. No, I don’t allow you to publish. This is not my image of Romania.

T: So maybe this is representing myself more than Romania?
Yes! We have gypsies, we have homeless kids, alcoholics, violence, whatever you want. I work everyday with these problems, but I don’t think that we are not taking action, that we aren’t doing enough. Although the problems start from somewhere else: with the legislation and the level at which we are kept by the European Union.

T: And do you think this is how Romania is seen mostly in other countries?
Yes, and we were helped also by people like you to be seen this way.

(social worker, Alba Iulia)

T: Do you think that the woman in the picture represents the area?

T: Why not?
I think you took this picture in the country you come from and show it here.

T: Really? I come from Belgium, so you think this picture is taken in Belgium?

T: What elements in the picture make you think like that?
Women outside Romania are way more beautiful. She has a nice body. And her clothes … This lady is an actual lady, not like us from the countryside, dirty, working the land.

T: Where do you think the photo was taken?
I think it’s in the city.

T: So what kind of image do you have of Belgium?
That it’s beautiful. Not with mountains and forests. More civilized, modern and clean.

T: Why couldn’t this be in Romania?
People here are meaner and messier.

T: Actually this picture is taken in Brad, in Romania.
In Brad? No, I don’t believe you.

(farmer, Rovina)

T: Crezi că asta e o reprezentare bună a zonei?
Eu știu de fapt ce se întâmplă în fotografie. A dat foc la câmp că să crească iarbă nouă și pentru a avea fân la vară, și probabil că aici venise să verifice dacă a ars tot, dar poate alții din afara României nu știu nimic despre asta.

T: Crezi că vor crede ceva negativ?
Da, clar. Că i-o ars averea la om, ce poate să fie?

(fotograf, Zlatna)

Those who eat fish from the cyanide lake improve their sex life

I met Matei during a student job in the chocolate factory of Malle in 2013. While piling up choco spread pots, he told me about the social debate related to the gold mines’ reopening in his homeland, Romania. At his apartment in Turnhout, Matei showed me pictures of the street protests against the foreign mining companies which came to Romania and pictures from Geamăna, a village flooded by the toxic waste of a mine.


In January 2015, I decided to take a bus to the Golden Quadrilateral in the Apuseni Mountains of Transylvania, shaped by the gold industry over the years.  

Through couchsurfing, I stayed at Irina’s house in Deva, in the south of the gold area. One day after dinner with her family I showed my pictures from the first trip. “These pictures have no value for me”, her mother said furiously. “They are a simple negative impression: remote, filthy, run-down…” It was difficult to hear that because I was their guest, and I felt it was true. I came with having a preconceived image of this Romanian region and I was only looking for confirmation.

After seven trips my relationship with the people and the landscape shifted.

Where is this?

T: In Brad.
Brad, seriously?


And the cat, is it yours?

But you know where I would like to have this property? In Ibiza. Here - I would make tuica (pointing at the garden).  Here a plantation of Marijuana,  here

- 60 tonnes of Alexandrion cognac, here - coke, and there 4 tonnes of heroin.

T: And inside?
… fuck and fuck

T: Why do you want this in Ibiza? Because that`s where the prostitution is. You can have as much alcohol there as your liver can take.

T: But why do you say Ibiza? So I don’t have to see snow anymore, and wear these thick clothes.

T: Would you like me to represent the region in a negative way? I don’t care. Don’t you want to bring me firewood in the winter, because this doesn’t do anything for me. 

T: But don’t you think Romania has a bad image because photographers come here and make the same negative images again and again? I don’t give a fuck about photographers. Who takes them serious? Did it help us that Top Gear made a reportage about the beautiful mountain roads that we have?

Photographers have no power. I saw so much corruption. Nothing will ever change, no matter what kind of image you will ever show. People outside of Romania don’t care about my life.

T: What kind of image would you want me to make about Romania? With war, to fuck us over, and then turn the page, another generation to come. We have to be cleaned.

(ex-employee Gold Corporation, Roșia Montană)

Gunoaie! Păi și Parisul are gunoaie și mai mari decât astea.

T: Dar vezi genul ăsta de imagini arătate din Paris?
Bineînțeles că nu.

T: Deci poza asta pentru tine arată realitatea?
Normal că e realitatea.

T: Deci în Paris nu e realitate pentru că nu e arătat asta în imagini?
Dar ți-am spus că e și în alte țări, și în Paris e mai urât ca aici, dar ei nu ne arată realitatea asta care e și la ei. Ne arată numai turnu…


Dar ce vei face, de fapt, cu pozele astea?

(șofer de tir, Recea)