Joan Wakelin Bursary Assignment

June 08, 2021

 

Romania 2019 (J4)Romania 2019 (J4)

In 2019 I took a photographic tour to the Apuseni Mountains and Maramureș regions of Romania with my husband Daryl. This proved to be a life changing trip. I was overwhelmed by the strength of connection I felt with the people in these remote communities. Their generosity and warmth captured my heart.

On my return to the UK, I applied for a bursary managed by the Royal Photographic Society and The Guardian, the Joan Wakelin Bursary. I wanted to find a way of preserving something of the essence of these communities for future generations. I hoped to do this by recording their stories and capturing images of their lifestyle. My application for the bursary was the first step on that journey. I was shortlisted, interviewed by the Director of Photography at the Guardian and thrilled to be awarded the bursary. The bursary project description:

The women of the last remaining peasant communities in rural Romania

In the remote mountains of Northern Romania, a dwindling population of peasant communities maintains a way of life that has changed little for centuries. Many of the older women in these communities have experienced unimaginable life events, some of their life stories are heartbreaking and most live in isolation from their families. On an initial visit in October 2019 I visited several of these women and found that they have a captivating essence that inspires and fascinates me. They are strong working women who live a simple, frugal life in difficult conditions. They survive against the odds and maintain a positive attitude, showing a generosity of spirit that is rare to find in our society.

The bursary project will allow me to explore what makes this society work and what underpins the strength and resilience of the women that hold these communities together. The essay will look at women from three generations to reveal the differences and similarities in their values. By examining their experiences and their attitudes to life, I aim to establish whether there are lessons to learn from these women that have relevance to the challenges we face in our modern life.

The bursary trip is booked for 25th June to 12th July 2021. On this trip we will be accompanied by photographer guide Mihnea Turcu. The itinerary is still being finalised, but we will spend 14 days in Maramures and the Apuseni mountains.

I must produce a photographic essay with a minimum of 20 images. The agreed completion date is 12th November 2021, although I will produce it sooner if I can. The promotion and opportunities that I hope will arise as a result of this award are as important to me as the financial support.

Link to RPS announcement: