Pascual Martínez and Vincent Sáez met while studying at the School of Arts in Murcia, Spain. Their common photographic concerns led them to work collaboratively. “We know that the ego can be our greatest enemy”, they tell us. “When people ask who made what photo, we never tell them. We do not believe that the act of pressing the shutter assigns individual authorship to the image. There is a lot of work done before and after that act”.
It was during a residency in Bucharest that the pair’s fascination with all things Romanian took hold. Stereotypes come to be associated with most countries, for the British, it’s tea, rain and a stiff-upper-lip. The Romanians find themselves affiliated with Count Dracula, misty Transylvanian mountains, hanging garlic, roaming gypsies and communism. In their intimate documentation of Romania’s landscape and people, Pascual and Vincent move away from these cliches, showing an alternative picture far removed from any prejudice.
The Tree of Life is Eternally Green, is a project that gets its title from a quote in Goethe’s Faust: “My worthy friend, grey are all theories and green alone Life’s golden tree”. It takes us away from social stereotyping and returns us to the arms of nature, exploring the integral connections Romanians have with their land. “The movement back to nature in modern times is often transitory, a way to feel better about your relationship with earth”, the duo explain. “However, with this work, the connection with the landscape goes much deeper. We use it to understand Romanian’s roots, their history and their behaviour”.
The photography series beautifully traverses the four seasons; we see the hardship of snow and the pure, green simplicity of summer. The images are raw and deep, with rich colours and quiet moments. We are taken on a sensorial and poetic experience, each photograph a personal snapshot into their lives and culture.
“We moved around the country using different ways: train, bus, foot, car and hitchhiking”, Pascual and Vincent tell us. “The roads, mostly unpaved, were not good, turning every trip into an adventure where marvellous situations lead to the meeting of interesting people”. However, it was Talia and Mihaela, two journalists with a blog about Romania in Spanish, who truly introduced them to the people of this country. “They knew about people who moved to the countryside looking for a different way of life”, the photographers explain.
Their project, which has been made into a delightful publication scattered with hand-pressed flowers, views Romania from a different lens. A corner is lifted, and we are given a chance to peep into their world, traditional heritage and folk culture.