Zaharia Cușnir, Rural Moldovan Photographer

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Found in an Abandoned House in Northern Moldova, Zaharia Cușnir’s Photographs Have Been Published Online
Locals
January 5, 2020

The official presentation of the online archive of works by the amateur photographer Zaharia Cușnir  (1912–1993), who took pictures of northern Moldovan villagers in the 1950s and the 1960s, took place on January 3, 2020.

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Three and a half years ago, while working on his graduation project, Academy of Arts student Victor Gălușcă found around twenty old photographic negatives amid trash in an abandoned house in the village of Roșietici, 122 kilometers north of Chișinău. He showed his find to his teacher, Nicolae Pojoga. Even this small number of shots was enough to convince Pojoga of their artistic and ethnographic value. A week later, Gălușcă returned to Roșietici hoping to find at least a few more shots by the unknown rural photographer. In a house whose windows and doors were missing, he found a dozen more, and when he climbed into the attic, a real treasure awaited him: a suitcase containing thousands of negatives. Thus began the project of restoring the photo archive of amateur photographer Zaharia Cușnir, who recorded the faces and everyday lives of villagers in the 1950s and 1960s.

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Cușnir was the youngest of the sixteen children of Iacov and Anna Cuşnir, who lived in the village of  Climăuți (now known as Roșietici Nou) on the Răut River. Zaharia went to the village school in Rogojeni before graduating from a pedagogical lyceum in Iași. He worked for a short time as a geography teacher before the war. We know that he spent time in prison after the war, and later he went from being an individual farmer to working on a collective farm. His work record book contains such entries as “plastered,” “hauled clay,” “laid concrete,” and “carried stones,” but there is no mention of his being employed as a photographer. Photography was Cuşnir’s hobby and labor of love.

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Cuşnir began taking pictures around 1955. His wife Daria and four children reproached him for photographing everyone, including beggars, who they though should not be in the frame since they could not serve as an example to others. Until 1970, he shot scenes of village life, leaving us nearly 4,000 medium-sized (6 x 6 cm) photographic negatives. Since they were found three and half years ago, the negatives have been thoroughly restored and archived, as well as painstakingly scanned under the direction of the well-known documentary photographer Ramin Mazur. There have been several shows of Cuşnir’s work in Moldova, Romania, and Germany, and Cartier Editions published a book containing 204 photographs by Cuşnir in 2017.

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Since Cuşnir died in 1993, his house has been abandoned. His daughter lives next door in the same village, and all the negatives were obtained with her permission. Work on the negatives was supported by a project grant from the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Fellowship.

High-resolution scans of Cuşnir’s photographs can be found at zaharia.md.

Thanks to Alexander Markov for the heads-up. Images courtesy of Locals. Translated by the Russian Reader

The Moldova Story

In 1994, my friend Nikolai, a retired agronomist from Moldova adrift in a large American city, dictated the following story to me in Russian.

1.

In Moldova in the month of April the weather is warm and rainy. Spring is coming.

The peasants all together set about the spring fieldwork. Nature is waking up. Gardens are blooming.

After the warm days and showers on the fields the first shoots of the field crops appear all at once.

2.

The best season of the year is summer. In this season the days are hot. Fruits, berries, early vegetables, and different kinds of table grapes appear on the vine.

The water in the river Dniester and the lakes becomes warm, and people swim and sunbathe.

3.

Three million people live in Moldova. Moldavians make up the indigenous population, but other nationalities live there as well: Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians, Romanians, and Jews.

Moldova is an independent nation at the present time.

__________

Pic of recent massive demonstration outside Moldovan Parliament

Moldova: A mouse roaring a truth
Paul Canning
February 24, 2016

This story might appear obscure but it reflects a bigger issue: about how Russian revanchism is reported back through democratic Europe’s free media. The issues it describes have also often been the story in Ukraine. How solid, liberal ideas like ‘balance’ and reporting ‘both sides’ can become a failure to tell the truth. How inserted reporters don’t pay attention to the locals. How the messy ‘European ideal’ needs much closer reporting if we’re to truly live up to any democratic ideal.

In the 1959 British comedy The Mouse That Roared a tiny, obscure European country ends up through comedic slight-of-hand being feted by both sides in the Cold War. In comedy, it showed how much of Europe is to the British ‘Ruritania‘, an inexplicable country whose peoples and cultures all mess into one. As the article explains this approach lives on with today’s lens of geopolitics and ideas of ‘colour revolution’ (via Russian infowar) muddying the coverage yet more.

 Read the rest of the story on oDR.