©Simona Ciocarlan // Patricia in her home
The Story behind the Portrait
It was the end of a cold February when I travelled to Marin, a small village in the north-west of Transylvania. There are very limited options to reach the area without a car and the journey to get there was an adventure. After months of research, I established a connection with the small community there and was keen to discover how they managed to keep a strong relationship with their traditions.
This is how I met Patricia, a young woman who is at the heart of this process of preserving and reviving the rich cultural heritage of the region. We spent a few days together, talking about our passion for the folk garments as we collaborated for a series of portraits.
Patricia welcomed me warmly into her traditional house and I was instantly enthralled by what I found inside. Rooms full of beautiful hand-embroidered textiles, pottery, and woodwork, marks of creativity and a glimpse into her life. I photographed her dressed in the costume she had specially made for the re-enactment of her great-grandmother’s wedding from 1941. A thin white and sparkling powder had dusted the streets in the morning and when I ended the meeting with Patrica it was still chilly outside, it was three degrees below zero and it had started to snow.
This photograph is part of the project ‘They danced in a different way‘, an examination of memory, nostalgia and cultural projections, seeking to provide insights into the lives of people that continue to practice ancestral rituals and wear traditional attire in Europe. These images are glimpses into peoples’ lives, documenting stories of individuals and communities from different regions of Romania.
The red thread that connects all these narratives, including my own, is represented by the Romanian peasant textiles and archaic traditions. Folk textiles could be regarded as an interplay between invention, innovation and ancient heritage transmitted from generation to generation, acting as symbols produced over centuries of cultural exchange.
My intention is to place a light onto the customs, drawing a portrait of post-communist Romania, investigating how the identities are built and influenced by the interweave between the modern world, perceptions and inherited culture.
The work ultimately focuses on the mother and female figure, by contemplating their lives and the myriad examples of objects and practices they produced, contributing to the personal, national and universal cultural heritage.
Folk textiles could be regarded as an interplay between invention, innovation and ancient heritage transmitted from generation to generation, acting as symbols produced over centuries of cultural exchange.
Simona Ciocarlan is a Romanian visual artist and photographer based in Glasgow. She holds a First-Class Honours Degree in Photography, specialising in fine art and documentary photography. Simona’s work explores the relationship and impact between traditions and the modern era, investigating how our perceptions over the world are influenced by cultural heritage. Throughout her projects, she constantly seeks to reference diverse layers of personal history and collective memory that shape our identity.
She has exhibited her work in many collective exhibitions in the United Kingdom and Europe. Simona won the Format Festival Shutter Hub Portfolio Award in 2019, was runner-up for the Grain Portfolio Award at Format Festival and received a Highly Commended at the Jill Todd Photographic Award in 2018. Her photographs have been featured in The Herald, The National, The Evening Times, Clydebank Post, and BBC Travel.
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