Zâne, a journey into unseen worlds

Teenager in a mushroom and berries pickers camp, Lotrului Mountains © Ioana Cîrlig

Of all the photography genres, documentary photography is among my favorites.

Just like a good book, documentary photography tells stories by engaging the senses and the mind and takes me to a journey at the end of which I find myself to be a little different from the person I was before experiencing it.

Documentary photography allows us to get a glimpse on how life unfolds for people we don’t personally know, what are their struggles, what makes them happy or sad, what scares them and what they hope and dream of.

Such accounts make me wonder and question the bubble I live in. They illustrate untold or unknown stories and capture the culture and the story of the people portrayed.

Photographs like these put an exclamation point around pressing social and human rights issues and can bring and inspire social change.

Documentary photography teaches us about the world in a beautiful way.

Working with Documentaria is a great opportunity for me to get exposed to such photography projects almost on a daily basis.

Below is an interview I held with Ioana Cirlig and Marin Raica, the two people responsible for one of my favorite Romanian documentary photography projects called Zâne (Fairies).

Letea forest © Ioana Cîrlig

Zâne is an ongoing project exploring the relationship between man and nature in remote and traditional Romanian communities.

“Zână, zâne”- Mythological creature in Romanian folklore. With many different representations, it is usually a female character, beautiful and kind, with magical powers and the gift of immortality. Spirits of nature, good fairies are born from flowers and they live in forests or at the top of high mountains.

Why do you do the things you do, what drives you to pursue this path?

We can’t not do it. If we could, we would probably stop :)

Ionel and Marian, Târșolț, Oaș. © Ioana Cîrlig

How did you end up working together at Zâne?

We’ve worked together on another project and it turned out ok, I think. It’s nice to travel together and brainstorm all the time, talk about photography and the story, observe as things change and unfold. It’s a lifestyle now and it’s lovely.

In an article on Scena 9 it says that you Marin are interested more in the mystical elements and the way people use them to connect with the unknown. Can you develop on this idea?

I always thought it was interesting the way mystical elements are naturally blended into daily life. People have given up on a lot of rituals, but they still hold on to superstitions and stories. A lot of people still blend religion with pagan superstitions, and even though they don’t actively pursue rituals they still fear the power of unknown forces and their ways. For example, you might get sick if someone, at a certain time, in a certain “bad” place, says something triggering.

© Marin Raica

Do you find these elements in urban areas as well or is it something closely related to the rural side?

They exist in urban areas as well, but in the countryside and especially in remote areas, these elements are more easily spotted. Also, people aren’t ashamed of their beliefs, of their superstitions as they sometimes can be in cities.

Ioana, what have you learnt about people in the time spent with them?

This is a big question, and hard to answer. I only manage to get really close to the people that I am very compatible with, of course. I have met many wonderful people that I would not have had the chance to even talk to if it weren’t for my constant obsession with taking pictures. I am always surprised by how welcoming people can be in this strange relationship that we ask for. We want to be sort of friends, we want to stay in touch for a long time and sometimes visit and take pictures of their lives.

Maria and the lamb, Sfiștofca, Danube Delta © Ioana Cîrlig

Read the rest of Zâne, a journey into unseen worlds.

Thanks for reading! :) If you enjoyed it, hit that heart button below. Would mean a lot to me and it helps other people see the story.