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Aga Luczakowska & Davin Ellicson

Maramures – A Transition

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Surrounded by a fortress of mountains and never collectivized by Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the Maramures region of northern Romania has preserved folk culture in a state of almost medieval isolation. Until recently, villagers had not been molded by materialism or Western ways. A critical turning point was reached, however, with Romania’s accession to the European Union in 2007. Youth are choosing money over preserving traditions, and there has been a mass exodus from the villages to Western Europe. A centuries-old way of life is being cast out. Wooden folk architecture is disappearing in record amounts and cement villas are taking their place along with modern conveniences.

We first became transfixed with Maramures when we met the Nemes family as they were finishing a haystack one evening at the end of the summer. Returning to the village of Valeni several times to photograph agrarian life, ancient festivals and traditional religious ceremonies, we joined in and made haystacks with them, helped tether horses to carts and drank warm milk straight from the cow. A sacred connection exists between the people of Maramures and the earth that has not survived in the modern world. While some view peasant life as primitive, we see it as magical. We want to document life in the village at this moment when the pace of change is rapidly increasing.

Our intent is to return together in each of the seasons over the coming year to photograph village youth upon their return from working abroad. Modernity is mixing with 18th century village life in unusual ways. A second part of our project will be to digitize historical photographs of traditional peasant life and rescue them from almost certain obscurity. These found images will be combined with our reportage work of contemporary life to form a comprehensive visual document. By illuminating traditional European folk culture on the brink of extinction, our project engages with pivotal issues of our time and seeks to draw attention to a rich cultural heritage that globalization threatens.



In 2005, Aga graduated from the University of Silesia with a Master’s Degree in Environmental Management and Protection. She studied photography with Gerd Ludwig at The Eddie Adams Workshop in 2007 and with Stanley Greene at Masterclass Focus on Monferrato 2008. In 2006, Aga worked as staff photographer for the Polish daily newspaper “Dziennik Zachodni” and worked in The Polish State Archives digitizing files from 2008-2009. This year Aga moved to Bucharest to devote herself full time again to photography. Recently, she won second place in the Southeast Europe Photo competition sponsored by the EU.

Davin graduated from Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota with a BA in Modern European History in 2001 and received an MA in Documentary Photography from The London College of Communication in 2006. He has photographed in Romania since 2002 and moved to Bucharest in 2008. Davin’s work has appeared in The New York Times and Der Spiegel among others and he won the 2009 Portfolio Award at The Phodar Photography Biennial and honorable mentions in Jen Bekman´s Hey! Hot Shot in 2008 and 2009.


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12 thoughts on “aga luczakowska & davin ellicson – maramures”

  1. AGA/ DAVIN,

    First congratulations on your publication here… Good to see your two names here… Before talking about this essay, I just wanted to say that I absolutely loved the picture of Aga, the reflection of the girl playing the violin in Istambul (or Turkey somewhere) for which Aga has received an award… it was a brilliant single!! The whole work of Aga in Turkey was stunning….

    Now, regarding this new work from the two of you, I think that with the exception of the essay from Alex and Rebecca Webb, this may be the first time that we see an essay from two photographers…each with his/her voice and vision but somehow, all mixed into one essay… While this may not be important to know this, I could not stop myself from wanting to know who shot what… I have to say that I have mixed feeling about blending like this the work of two photographers… this is not just for your and Davin’s work, I had the same feeling about the book Violet Island… I prefer seeing through the eyes of one photographer at a time. Any essay often reveals as much about the particular topic of the essay (if it is a reportage) as it reveals something about the photographer him or herself…. when mixed all together, I feel I can no longer hear the voice of anyone… strange but personally, would rather have liked to see Aga’s and Davin’s interpetations separately somehow…

    On the work itself, it transports us back to a region of the world where there is an inherent nostalgia, but the only drawback I feel is that we have recently seen many great essays from the “East”, ranging from Satellites of Jonas Bendiksen to the brilliant work of Dmitry Markov whose work “AWkward age” was shown here and in Burn 01 or even the work of Davide Monteleone who got the last EPF award… of course, all topics are different so this comparision may seem inappropriate but the work has in common to show life in these former communist countries that have been kept isolated from the Western world… and your essay somehow reminded me of the mood, the feeling of these other essays without somehow reaching the same aesthetic level jus yet… so, while I liked the work, it suffers from the inevitable comparison… The good news is that the two of you are there, living nearby and you intend to go back regularly to these viallges so you will have the opportunity to carry on, take this good work even to the next level…but with all the great essays we have already seen from the “East”, you have in my oponion the opportunity to go further…. Easier said than done :):)…. again what I already like in this feeling of nostalgia… very much like the mood… I was fortunate to travel in Russia for work recently… this feeling is what did make an impression on me as well somehow… made me also want to go back and shoot in this region as well… you have been inspired as well it is obvious and now, continue to dig deeper and deeper and my 2c, you may want to focus on showing your own respective interpretation of it as opposed to blend it all…

    Take care and again congrats for the publication…. Keep us posted…



  2. Aga, Davin,great pictures.
    I like the way you show the contrasts of that area.

    Sorry we can’t meet in Bucharest, while I am there. Hope to see you soon, anyway.

    All the Best!


  3. Aga and Davin,

    What a beautiful piece! The way the images are taken reflects the culture and the place and no doubt your attraction to it as a couple – the natural earthiness – and I feel interested to know more about each moment you are showing in the sequence. I really feel I would like to read more in captions!

    I remember Davin heading off into the breach some years ago, so to see this work together with Aga fills me with joy! I have no problem with a piece created by more than one person, by a couple or by even more people. There is something beautiful in the making of a piece of work in this way – it adds magic in the process. I came across two guys working on a project together in Bangkok earlier this year – both still photographers – and spent an hour or so with them as they were editing. I was inspired to see them producing the work together and they were so enjoying themselves! Even more so when it comes to multimedia, producing work as a pair makes complete sense as to capture stills and video at the same time as something is unfolding before your eyes is close to impossible – even if the camera can do both! I have tried…

    On a related topic, there was a fascinating exhibition at the Brighton Fringe earlier this year – a group exhibition of prints that were arranged not by the author but by the content of the image/moment. It was a ‘free-flow’ medley of images that ran around the room and I loved the concept for a community of photographers – the connection in the sequence being only how one image looked beside the next! You kept bumping into your favourite authors as you walked around the room. There was one whose work reminded me of Bob’s…

  4. This was an experiment into color. My ongoing black and white work about rural Romania and my current color work in Bucharest, all largely unseen by anyone so far, is what I am most proud of. I may try to continue shooting the youth in Maramures in color, but I think I will probably continue on only in black and white as it will fit with the work I originally began in 2002.

  5. Beautiful story and beautiful photographs :))

    I guess Aga has brought feverish color to Davin’s life :)))…and that’s a great thing :))

    Enjoyed the collaboration very much…it’s a strong story, though i want even more, much more pictures, because it needs more…the story is rich and complex, and because i’ve known Davin’s work for a number of years and seen this story fleshed out, it’s more difficult to join with a short version, …so, this is more about my familiarity with Davin’s project over the last 5+ years…..

    as for this essay, it contains some gorgeous photographs,…and i love the vibrancy of the color, particularly as the color is in opposition to the subject matter/conditions…one may think of a more subdued and melancholic approach and this series works it’s colorfield magic in a way that not only modernizes this group (to the viewer) but connects….

    I too think i can discern whose photographs are who, as Davin and Aga have very different eyes and different sensibilities, but the blending is a nice approach and acts as a kind of balancing…managing the directness of the documentary approach with a more lyrical mystery…..

    the question of 2 photographers working together (a la Webbs or Bechers) isn’t that important to me as long as the work is unified. By unified I mean that either the ‘voices’ of the two photographers build to sustain a unified story/voice (in the case, for example, of the Bechers) or work as opposition, contrast which join to flesh out a story (in the case of the Webb’s)….Marina and I have also worked together and exhibited together (though our work is pretty different), and I celebrate the fact that Aga and Davin have unified their strengths as photographers….it’s an also important tool/experience, as both will also learn/develop/grow as photographers, learning from one anothers strengths and weaknesses…..

    as a story it is very very strong and beautifully photographed…i love the richness of the color and the play of the modernity (teens/color, etc) with the history (death/babushka/landscape/shawls)….which allow for a rich celebration of this community….

    all i ask is for MORE MORE MORE :)))…a longer body of work that takes me deeper into the life here….but i know you both have that and have slimmed it down for the publication ….

    strong, beautiful, sensitive work…

    and god damn have you got that color thing working ! :))

    congrats to both of you :)))))

    very happy to see such strong, powerful collaboration


  6. Thank you for your comments.

    Eric… I agree with you.

    We put this piece of work together almost a one year ago. It was a time when we started to travel together and we were trying to find out what kind of photo collaboration we can have.
    We found out that we have different interests and different styles and we will work on our projects separately.

    Thank you for your kind words regarding my work from Istanbul.


    Aga :-)

  7. Very, very good. I don’t get #12 but love the interesting and mysterious aspects of the photo with the feet off the bed and the shadow of a passing cigarette smoker. The first photo is extremely intriguing and drew me right in. Great work Aga and Davin. Good to see people work together.

  8. Aga, Davin

    I’ve been looking at your websites, and see wonderful, powerful work. I’m clearly out of step , but here I’m afraid I’m only seeing un-remarkable, random images, interesting only because of their (to me) exotic locale. What am I missing?

  9. Gordon they are random images and are posted under selected photographs not photographic essays.

    Aga, Davin I enjoyed the collaborate work presented and I hope eventually some of the images will find their way into a strong visual narrative

  10. collaboration is a beautiful thing…
    when others work
    this story need to be developed,
    and I think the 2 of you will do an amazing job!!!
    great color and mood…
    want to see MORE….

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