Neighbors

Neighbor

Make Me a Picture

There are many reasons why I joined the Peace Corps, but one of them was because I knew a foreign culture (one foreign to tourists) would offer up a multitude of photo opportunities. What I didn’t know, though, is I would become used for my camera.

Moldova has its own version of Facebook, which we Americans have dubbed “Russian Facebook”. Supposedly it came around about the same time as Facebook, but the masses flocked to it because it was in Russian, not English, so it was easy to understand. But because the majority of people in the USA started using the Internet around the time it was available to the public, we just kind of morphed with the growth… and we know many of the ins and outs… at least this is what I’ve observed. Here, though, it came much later, and only in the last few years has the internet really picked up in the homes, so people don’t really understand what all the Internet can do. So, Odnoklassniki (Russian Facebook) picked up on that and pretty much has made it its own Internet… you can download music, find the weather, use it as a search engine, have conversations (on video, too!), and the highlight: post and rate photographs.

So, as soon as it became known I am a photographer, I became the celebrity of Varatic… everyone wanted me to “make [them] a photo” so they could change their Odnoklassniki profile photo… All. The. Time. This was fine until a point, and I am not a fan of posing my subjects… but that is the Odnoklassniki style. The body is contorted in an unnatural fashion and every image is “beautiful” because the background is blurred. Yes, you read that right: a blurred background makes for a beautiful photograph (of course we are our own worst critic, so the subject has to approve of his/her body contortion and facial expression, too). It was all beginning to make sense: the Modern Moldovans did not want talent or style in photography… they just wanted my “nice camera that makes nice pictures”.

Once I realized this, I also realized the cost to replace the shutter on my camera (which is only guaranteed for 100,000 clicks) and I decided I wanted to save those clicks for, say, my month-long trip in Asia I have in July. I told them my camera was broken (it was) and I’d use their camera if they wanted photos… and soon my photography skills were forgotten, and so was my passion for portrait photography.

Until today.

I heard a little voice outside talking to my host mom, and I went outside to see who it was, because usually the little voices are looking for me but this one was sticking around for awhile. When I went out there I saw this stinking cute little 3 1/2 year old girl. I couldn’t resist: I had to go grab my camera. Much to my excitement, she hardly posed for the camera, and when she did, it was natural. No squatting and putting her hands on her knees and sticking her tushie sideways… no pulling on her hair and holding it… no putting her chin down and looking up at me trying to give me sexy eyes (yes, I have had 7 year-old girls do this). She was ALL her, and all little girl…you should have heard her non-stop laugh!

And now I remember why I love portrait photography so much! Which is just in time, since I will be Stateside in 17 days, and taking many portraits (contact me if you’re interested!)

Smile with your eyes

Smile

As the days in Moldova are winding down, I’m doing my best to spend time with the people I have learned to love here. Maria is the one who made me love Varatic… and as happy, beautiful, and photogenic as she is, she doesn’t like to smile in photographs because it says smiling makes her look old.

So I told her to smile with her eyes… but it took some time to get there 🙂

… but she finally did it!

Maria

It’s amazing what a year does

One year ago Pavel, the love of Maria’s life, died.
One year ago, his funeral was difficult to attend because his death was unexpected and it was so apparent in Maria’s face just how much pain she was going through.

One year later, Maria is smiling:
One year ago, the Priest was greeted with tears as guests waited outside in the unexpected cold weather (and snow flurries):
One year later, the Priest entered the home and was greeted with smiles and laughter and warm weather, with guests waiting outside because it was warmer to be outside than inside, where we would be commemorating his death/life/soul:

One year ago, this room was empty except for a casket where Pavel was resting inside, a small table for food and wine, and a grieving friend.
One year later, it was filled with food, friends, and a loving ceremony blessing in which everyone present said prayers and blessed his soul.
…Once the ceremony was finished, it was time to eat (and drink, because what is a Moldovan masa without wine!?)


One year ago, the road was cold, dark, and it seemed so lonely:
One year later, sometimes it may seem like there is no one on the road with you, but even if you are the only one on the road, you’re still on the road… so keep on moving. At least the sun is shining!
Even though I no longer am greeted by HELLO AMERICA! as I enter Maria’s house, I am now greeted with a smile and a, OH, HELLO CATE! from Maria. I still love this couple, even if the couple is technically a single now.
So much can change in just ONE YEAR. Let it change. Let it happen. Because it will, no matter what.