Remnants of Moldova. Interview with Dorin Goian

The Moldova based photographer, Dorin Goian studied first economics at Moldovan Academy of Economic Studies in Chisinau. He started to do photography after he emigrated to Canada in 2006. He graduated from the photojournalism program at Loyalist College in 2009, the same year he attended the Magnum Workshop Toronto. In 2011 he returned to Moldova and recently he is working on a long-term project called Remnants focusing on the depopulation of Moldovan villages. Goian documents the life of the remaining inhabitants and the remnants of the villages that are becoming more and more abandoned and empty due to the difficult economic situation of the country.

 

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Dorin Goian. Photo by Maxim Dondyuk

Kinga Lendeczki: When was the first time you thought about becoming a photographer?

Dorin Goian: I don’t remember to a definite moment when I would have understood what I will do in all of my entire life. There was not a moment when I woke up in the morning and told myself: I will be a photographer, no. But I liked to take photographs since my childhood. For me it is a way of writing. You write situations, emotions through your camera. But the culminating moment was the year of 2006 when I travelled through Moldovan villages prior to my immigration to Canada. In Canada I enrolled in a photojournalism program and I completed it in 2009.

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Abandoned and destroyed power station on Raut river near Ordasei village, Moldova 2016. From Remnants series.

KL: Do you have a working routine?

DG: No. I have projects for some organizations and in that case I must go to work at certain hour, but of course I am thankful to my job that I am not part of the usual daily routine. I don’t go to work at 8 and come back home at 5. But a freelancer career requires a certain degree of discipline and organization.

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rina is one of the few teenagers living in Rogojeni village of Moldova. Once a populated village, now only a few households can be found there, Moldova 2016. From Remnants series.

KL: Where do you draw inspiration from?

DG: I draw inspiration from life: nature, people, their main activities, their fears and diseases. I don’t make a script, I’m not looking for special people or situations. I’m just memorizing what I see with my camera and I want to show it to others. For me the creative part of photography is short. I’m almost based only on my intuition and my eyes.

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Dumitru and his wife have a small farm in Rogojeni village allowing them to have a self sufficient life in an almost abandoned village in Moldova. From Remnants series.

KL: Where and when do you work best?

DG: In villages, I adore to work there. Villages in Moldova have their specific aspects with their traditions and people and for me it is important to communicate with them. I work the best when I feel the connection between me and people or me and nature. If you don’t feel it, you are not able to make something really good. Art is more about feeling, than about technique or talent. Like any artist in any field you must feel what you are doing.

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Dumitru is one of the few people left in Rogojeni village, when he was young he used to fight a lot. Moldova 2016. From Remnants series.

KL: What music helps you to work?

DG: I am not listening to music while I am working. I need to concentrate on the picture and I also need to forget about myself, only then will the photograph become stronger.

KL: How do you relax?

DG: I am reading books or listening to music. I am reading now Morometii by Marin Preda. His descriptions help me a lot to understand people’s way of thinking. I also think that there is a strong connection between arts: literature, photography, music, film, etc. You cannot be involved just in one field, it is not enough. You should appreciate beauty in its all forms of perception.

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Moldova, Branesti, on the set of documentary film “Moments of Silence” by Nelu Donica. 2014. From Remnants series.

KL: What does it mean for you to be a photographer?

DG: To be a photographer means to be a hunter and a spectator as well.

My job has two different aspects: an active and a passive one. The active one includes that I am travelling a lot, I am communicating a lot. I cannot stay just in one place for a long while. The passive part includes that I am just a spectator. You leave yourself behind the camera, you are not a main character. You have to forget yourself, your problems, you are not there. You create the place and emotions with your eyes.

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Maria is one of the few people left in Rogojeni, she is living in a “bashka”, a small building half buried in earth, a construction that keeps cold in the summer and warm in the winter, Moldova 2016. From Remnants series.

KL: What are you currently working on?

DG: I am currently working on a project about the phenomenon of depopulation in Moldovan villages, documenting the changing landscape and remnants who still remain to live in almost depopulated villages. With the help of Moldovan NGO’s I identify villages most affected by depopulation and spend some time in those villages documenting the life of it’s remaining inhabitants. Rogojeni is one of those villages. It has some old style one room houses half burried in earth, called « bashka«, that are easy to heat during the winter and cold in the summer. Before the independence of Moldova, Rogojeni had 71 households, today only 5 remained. The rest of the village is empty, there are just abandoned and halfly destroyed houses of people who left the country. But, nethertheless, remnants, who decided to remain find it quiet and peaceful to live in depopulated villages. For example Dumitru from Rogojeni and his wife have a self sustained small farm and they get all food they need by themselves.

But the real problem deserving attention is that the population of Moldova is decreasing; its people are ageing. By 2015, the country had lost 76,000 women of child-bearing age, according to a UN Population Fund country study, while most families are restricting themselves to one child because of poverty. The current birth rate in Moldova is comparable to the one registered during the Second World War, according to many demographers.

Open air French music festival, Horodiste, Moldova 2011.
Open air French music festival, Horodiste, Moldova 2011. From Remnants series.

KL: Who are your artistic influences?

DG: I was fascinated by Magnum- the world’s most prestigious photographic agency, and by it’s founders: Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David Seymor.

I also like Joseph Koudelka, Diane Arbus and Alexander Rodchenko.

Also as other influences I would mention Federico Fellini, Bela Tarr and Andrei Tarkovski.

KL: Who is your perfect receptor/audience?

DG: I don’t think that the perfect receptor exists. I don’t take photographs for a perfect audience, it would be foolish to make something for a special group of people or just for appreciation.

I want to show people what really matters, to show the problems and to find the ulterior ways to solve them.

Raut river near Cenusa village, Moldova 2016.
Raut river near Cenusa village, Moldova 2016. From Remnants series.

KL: What are the advantages and difficulties of being based in Moldova?

DG: The advantages of being based in Moldova are that you are surrounded by wonderful landscape and villages that keep their traditions and reach in stories. One of the difficulties is that we don’t have enough places or areas to spread art, even though we have enough material for creating it. Moldova is fighting with several problems such as poverty, old mentality, nostalgia for soviet past, depopulation, etc.

Portrait of Anatoly, a homeless man on the streets of Chisinau, Moldova 2006.
Portrait of Anatoly, a homeless man on the streets of Chisinau, Moldova 2006. From Remnants series.

KL: What should be the role of documentary photography today?

DG: Images have the power to highlight stories. Documentary photography today should expose us to unseen realities and I believe that it has the power to bring social change.

 

KL: If you could choose any place or medium, where would you exhibit / publish your photos?

DG: I would like to publish a series of photo books with my works from my personal projects. I think it would also be great to open a Center of Contemporary Photography in Moldova.

Codru suburb of Chisinau, Moldova 2011.
Codru suburb of Chisinau, Moldova 2011. From Remnants series.

KL: What art works would you show your own children to introduce them to art?

DG: Painting, theater, literature and classical music.

 

KL: What was the last remarkable thing you saw?

DG: The Van Gogh Museum, when I visited Amsterdam a few months ago.

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Abandoned and decaying houses in Rogojeni village is a typical landscape in rural Moldova, once an agricultural country, nowadays ruled by corruption, nepotism, incompetence and oligarchs, as a result a vast part of population left the country to find better life abroad. Moldova 2016. From Remnants series.

 

KL: Whose answers would you be interested in reading next time?

DG: Nelu Donica, a documentary filmmaker from Moldova.

 

The article was originally published on the 19th of June, 2016 on ArtGuideEast.

 

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