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It is more than seven years now since I and my wife Cristina undertook our month-long trip to Maramureș. Ever since, I wanted to publish a book about the region, focusing on its people and its artists. At the time – 2009 – there were very few photography books on the region, albeit some of the very best (“Maramureș”, by a Maramureș loving Japanese who discovered the region by accident, during communist times – Miya Kosei – which I regard as the most beautiful and sincere photography book about the region, as well as “Maramures: The Land of Wood“, the beautiful black and white photography of Ana Bârcă).
Much has changed since Kosei and Bârcă took their photographs, in the seventies, eighties and early nineties. The Maramureș I saw was still very beautiful, there were still traditions and good, warm-harted and God loving people. But I also saw what globalisation can do to the traditional village life, to the famous culture of wood and to its foremost artisans, who were left behind in a world more and more recentred away from the local values of beautiful, decency and honesty.
I took the trip in 2009 knowing well that what I saw would soon be history, that many of the old people I saw would be gone soon, and century long traditions would disappear together with them. By early 2012, when I managed to finish this book, one artist had already passed away Nicolae Pipaș died in January 2012. His wife, Maria Pipaș, followed in August 2013 and this January, another great artisan, Godja Pătru Pupăză, left us. There is a happy story among the artists I met in 2009 the great wood carver Ion Bledea, who in 2009 was still sculpting in an improvised atelier, abutting the Roman Catholic church in Sighetu Marmației, where masterpieces were crammed together in a small and dark room, has meanwhile received some well deserved recognition and now he has his own atelier and showroom, in his own house.
By now, many of the people and places I saw and photographed in 2009 are history. This book is thus technically obsolete, talking about things that are now in the past, and of people who cannot anymore enjoy some very late acknowledgement of their lifetime work. Yet, I still see value publishing it, as a modest testimony of things that once were and of things that still are.
All those who published books on their own will know that a book requires considerable effort, even a photography book. My wife Cristina was both my companion on all my trips to the region and the text editor. Călin Eva took care of the graphic design. Finally, my brother Septimiu Moldovan undertook the digital image processing.