Yurian Quintanas


Every year on the 19th of August, thousands of Orthodox Catholics moved by faith flock to the holy mountain of Grabarka in Poland to celebrate the Transfiguration. Many of them go by foot or on their knees, many carry the traditional orthodox cross for many miles as a sacrifice to God. On their arrival the pilgrims place their crosses into the ground and start to pray. They continue their prayers throughout the entire night, hoping to achieve health for themselves and their kin, and salvation for their dead ancestors.

The Holy Mount of Grabarka, also known as ‘The mountain of the 6000 crosses,’ is the largest center of worship for the Orthodox community in Poland. The story goes that in the 18th century, a man suffering from cholera had a dream, put a cross on top of the mountain and miraculously healed. From that day people have carried crosses to the sanctuary, and year after year the mountain has been filled with thousands of pilgrims. Grabarka is a place full of mysticism and spirituality; a sacred place that serves its devotees as a link between the world of the living and the dead.



The concept of death as an end or a transition, the idea of immortality and the belief in an afterlife, appear in one form or another in practically all societies and moments of history. Death is a daily fact, implicit to life and one of the only certainties of humanity. However, the idea of death remains remote and elusive to the majority of people; just the mention of it is considered taboo. It is basically conceived as a personal failure, causing its presence to fill us with fear. We feel pain and suffering because we don’t know how to deal with it, and aren’t prepared to accept its imminence. There arrives religion- the myths, and the different beliefs which generate hope in the human being when facing this great mystery of life: death.




Yurian Quintanas Nobel was born in Amsterdam in 1983, but has lived all his life in Banyoles (Spain). He studied photography in 2007 at IDEP SCHOOL, Barcelona. Yurian has worked on his own projects, which are still in their formative stages. Gradually he is becoming more interested in stories away from the daily news and more related to his own life experience. Over the past four years, Yurian has won several prizes and was awarded scholarships to “XIII International photojournalism meeting of Gijon” and the Magnum Photo Workshop scholarship with Chien-Chi Chang.


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30 thoughts on “Yurian Quintanas Nobel – Grabarka”

  1. A visually well told story. I think I personally would have bookended the essay with #13 and #17. But that’s really a small trifle. And I admit, it might be too obvious. In any case, very much enjoyed the over all body of this work.


  2. I like this one very much. It’s nice to see the old fashioned black and white details deep into the shadows style done so well. It reminds me what it is I liked so much about photography in the first place. But the world being what it is these days, I can’t help wondering about some of the technical aspects. It looks like a lot of digital sharpening was applied, and possibly that many of the elements were composited. I don’t know for sure, and I don’t note those possibilities as a negative criticism. I’m not against those practices. Just curious.

    My favorite composition by far is number 12. I like how the round white dots form a counterpoint to the lines and right angles of the crosses as they both shrink off into infinity. It would be perfect if the guy’s face were sharper, or maybe better to say more natural, and I’m curious why it’s not since other elements on that plane seem to be. Perhaps it’s over-sharpened? I don’t know, but it strikes me as a bit weird. Also, there seems to be a bit of a darkroom chemical mistake on the bottom of the frame, on the post just a little left of center and I can’t help wondering if that’s a sure sign that we’re looking at film or if that’s just a feature of some software that gives a photo that old-fashioned look. I doubt it, and again, I don’t have anything against the digital darkroom (love it, actually), but that would be going a bit too far.

    Amyway, Bob and/or anyone else so inclined, don’t have a aneurism. These questions I ask myself about the nature of the developing process aren’t negative criticisms. I really like this work. It’s a fantastic window into what should be the past but somehow manages to remain the present.

  3. Strange.
    I do not think that these images do visual justice to what may well be an interesting event.
    None are in any way iconic, or even compositionally interesting.
    In fact most are prosaic and seem merely to mirror the descriptive text in an almost banal way.
    Three is a possible exception, but comes off looking more like a lucky grab shot than a studied attempt to capture a feeling.

    In essence this just looks and reads and feels like very basic journalism with no outstanding, or even above average, facets to it.

    I am baffled and would gladly listen to a strong counter argument as to why I am wrong, and what I may be missing.


  4. This is much more on the ‘what it looks like’ than on the ‘what it feels like’ side.. but perhaps that’s what it’s meant to be, if so, then all fine.. just less interesting for me, but that’s only my personal take.

  5. I am baffled and would gladly listen to a strong counter argument as to why I am wrong, and what I may be missing.

    How can your opinion be wrong? It’s your opinion. You feel the way you feel about each essay due to your life experiences, which color your ideals, opinions, thought processes… nothing to change as far as I can see. Do you actually think someone could say something that would suddenly make you feel these images are anything but the banal, compositionally dull creatures you think they are?

  6. “Do you actually think someone could say something that would suddenly make you feel these images are anything but the banal, compositionally dull creatures you think they are?” …NO.

    But, many must see them as such or they would not be published here. I am interested in that.

  7. I am baffled and would gladly listen to a strong counter argument as to why I am wrong, and what I may be missing.

    John, well, I’m surely not the one to make the kind of argument strong counter argument you’re after, but I am a bit baffled that you find many of the images compositionally dull. I find the compositional dynamism of a good number of them to be what sets this essay apart from basic journalism. Images 5,9,12, and 16 strike me as excellent examples of dynamic composition. I might consider these types of compositions to be traditional, perhaps even old-fashioned, but not uninteresting and certainly not banal.

    Anyway, I’m curious about what you consider to be interesting composition? Not curious in an argumentative way, but in an educational way. I respect our opinion about these things.

  8. Congratulations Yourian

    This is spectacular.

    This is a fascinating story, very skillfully and sensitivly presented, and is certainly up there with my all time favourite burn essays.

    John, perhaps you are looking for edginess. There is no edginess here, thank goodness. What we have here is thoughtful, sensitive, no-gimmick photography.I’m astounded by your take on the compositions. Many of these photographs could be used in a class on formal composition.

    No.4 is a complete joy, and, like the rest of these compositions, clean and complete with no out of place distracting elements. I love the gestures and pattern created by the people with the crosses on the left, then the beautiful line of seated women, and the top and bottom of the photo divided into dark and light, masterful.

    No.5 is a joy. I love The overall composition, a horizontal line running through the upper part of the photographs demands our complete attention. We can scan back and forth accross it and enjoy the the quiet expressions and feel the reverence. This photo, and the rest, show masterful tonal work. Note how the line doesn’t fall off the frame on either side, but is contained by a gradual darkening as are the top and bottom. Unlike too much work seen these days, darkroom/photoshop burning/dodging is beautifully controlled here, and in the rest of the photos.

    No.9, and several other photos here, shows us Yurian’s love for symmetry, and for presenting his center of interest dead center in the frame. While the background is almost chaotic, it is beautifully contained, without any dischord. The black figure draws us in immediatly. The little rock wall below point us up into the figure, then, almost un-noticed at first, there is the crouching figure. I love the gesture of the clasped hands on the standing woman, and her sideways glance and gentle smile. This whole photograph reminds reminds me of a shrine.

    #6, Amazing,

    I could go on an on. I love this.

  9. “Many of these photographs could be used in a class on formal composition.”….then thank god that so few people take those classes. Sensible fucking shoes!! Good grief!

  10. “Many of these photographs could be used in a class on formal composition.” Hmmn maybe we all could go back to the old 1950’s soviet style of composition and photograph plaster statues. Gordon you can be chief statue mover.

  11. Lady Gaga shoes for all.
    Nothing is more boring than affected leading edge fashion or edgy trendy “edgy” photographs. Classic is classic. Good work is good work.

  12. Beautiful and well done work.
    #14 is an amazing shot. Both text and photos are on point.
    I think what it’s bothering some here is that these images don’t make you ask questions.
    This is not a criticism just my take on some of the conversation here.
    After looking at the essay several times I noticed that I didnt have any questions about any of the images. This might be its greatest strength or it’s major weakness.
    Either way….I love this essay.

  13. I looked at the essay twice and still haven’t read the summary or captions, because the images stood out on their own. My impression was of a local probably cultish group in a rural village lost in the forest…not a broad event. Whether this is accurate or good reportage or not, the compositions strike me as very strong both in content and substance. I almost feel like I’m seeing stills from a movie due to the motifs, logical flow, and characters — an old movie but classic and enduring one. As Gordon says, many of these images are a joy, and they certainly aren’t boring or typical to my eye.

  14. I loved the photographs, thank you Yurian and congratulations.

    Eva makes the point that the photographs show “what it looks like rather than what it feels like” and I’d agree, although I don’t say this as a criticism: when I look at photographs I want to be informed first and wowed by the photography a close second – or rather, great photography on its own is not enough for me; I want the lowdown too. The intro tells us that “thousands of Orthodox Catholics moved by faith flock to the holy mountain” and I’d like to see more of the participants. I suspect (please tell us Yurian) that this is an initial contact with this religious festival. Getting close in such situations is always difficult and returning annually would probably pay dividends. If it was me I’d consider taking off my shoes to show solidarity with the participants and hopefully be viewed as such rather than just a taker of photographs. Having said all this I really do like the photography produced so far: I want to visit there myself!


  15. Hi Yurian, thanks for sharing these.

    As so often on this site, I thought the project was well executed, and worth looking at.

    -On the plus side, I thought the images were technically very good, and you told the story very clearly. Certain images stood out to me – the crawling ones in particular, and the opening image.
    -On a more critical note, I felt you could have let yourself run away with the passion involved in the procession, and the surreal nature of the subject. I wanted some raw emotion.

    On the whole though, a strong essay – I’m a bit surprised it’s getting such a tough time.


  16. I like it. But here is what I want to know and I am sorry that the digital age has created the skepticism in me that I would even ask:

    That little skull-like face near the intersection of the left and top third lines – was it really there? Or did you photoshop it in?

    It strikes me as close to brilliant, maybe brilliant, either way, but since this is a documentary essay, I hope it was really there. I believe it was really there. But I am just a wee bit skeptical.

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  18. I’m sorry, I’m missing something here. The words Orthodox and Catholic are used here as if they referred to the same thing. Are these people Polish Orthodox Christians, which is to say, are they members of an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church in communion with the Patriarchate of Constantinople, or are they members of a Byzantine Catholic church in communion with the Papacy? Please forgive the pedantry, and I should say here that I like the pictures a lot; someone above brought up Marketa Luskacova’s work and that was the first thing I thought of as well when I looked at these photos; but as I said, when you use the words Orthodox and Catholic as proper nouns then you are referring to two different churches.

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