Ioana Cirlig, in the series Post Industrial Stories, documents the post communist and deindustrialising landscapes across Romania.
During 40 years of communism, towns across Romania became centred on industry. People migrated to theses industrial hubs and the rural landscape was drastically altered. Workers from all over the country came to live in the areas surrounding factories and mines to work- some of their own accord while some were forced.
The shift that took place in the economy when the country broke away from communism, however, brought with it its own problems. Corruption and oligarchs took communism’s place and previously thriving industries collapsed leaving the surrounding towns to become derelict.
Many of the residents, however, had no choice but to remain despite the decaying of the world around them. It is these people and their homes that Cirlig documents.
The photographer’s work, however, does not hinge on creating a sense of sadness for the viewer. Instead the work comes across as unsentimental but understanding. Each image is carefully composed and is reminiscent of Alec Soth, a photographer by whom she was influenced.
The images are, of course, aesthetically very industrial with muted tones and empty streets. Cirlig is Romanian and it might be this that gives humanity to images that might otherwise have been cold and misunderstanding. The artist grew up familiar with the industrial landscapes of Romania meaning they are certainly not alien to her.
Most of the images were not staged, which is unsurprising given Cirlig’s background in journalism. They are, though, carefully composed to create striking landscapes and arresting portraits.
While one would expect to be confronted with melancholia in images of these landscapes, the photographer has given us something else. It is, instead, a more sanguine series. It is this that sets Cirlig’s work apart from other images of scenes such as these.
This work was only really possible as the artist avoided simply passing through towns and, instead, she moved to the towns and integrated into the communities as much as possible. This helped her to hear and learn from the people that she photographed.