Homeland is an intimate portrait of life in one of the Europe’s most biodiverse regions and a quiet homage to the photographer’s native land.
Photographs and text by Alexandru Tomazatos
Danube Delta is located in the east of Romania, where Danube River meets the Black Sea. It’s the second biggest river delta ecosystem in Europe. During the Communist rule the area was under systematic threat from the governmental policies which aimed at turning it to a heavily cultivated agricultural resource. Only in 1992 the delta was announced a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
Now it’s a biodiversity hotspot drawing annually thousands of visitors. But besides 2440 insect species, 1830 plant species, 320 bird species and more than 130 species of fish, this nature’s haven is inhabited by approximately 14 000 people: Romanians, Russian Lipovans and Ukrainian Hahols dwelling in 25 rural settlements and the country’s smallest town – Sulina. They share less than 20% of the delta which is dry land. The rest is water and marshland.
For me, a trained biologist, engagement in photography released a process of gradual shift in my interests from snakes, lizards and frogs to how the state of the ecosystem reverberates socially and culturally in a community.
Studying biology and observing people gave me my own perspective over the biosphere and how the community presents itself as a result of adaptation to the environment. Just like the flora and fauna of the delta, the way of life, the traditions, the problems of these communities have evolved in close correlation to the environment.
Homeland started almost 4 years ago, with my interest of following the daily life, holidays, sorrows, and traditions of these people. But in the first place, I think, this project is a normal, organic reaction to the places I grew up in that was nurtured by the nature and the wonder of how it shaped the lifestyle of my folks and myself. The work is still in progress.
Alexandru Tomazatos: I was born at the end of 1988, at the end of the Danube river, in the Romania’s smallest town – Sulina. My work received a few accolades and was published and exhibited a few times here and there. After a short stint abroad, I decided to return to Romania and try to better understand my country, my people. I speak Romanian, English, Turkish, Norwegian and get by easily in Swedish, German and French. My backpacking skills are good enough and I like to take my time for small, apparently unimportant stories.
Alexandru, for the Homeland project, has been awarded a tuition-free scholarship for our workshop with Chien-Chi Chang in Krakow.
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