Mitchell Kanashkevich has been travelling for almost his entire adult life, seeking adventure and ways to learn and interact with cultures that differ widely from his own. ‘Photography became a great excuse to look deeper and to make my own experiences more intense,’ Mitchell states. ‘My main interest is people. I’m especially fascinated by ancient traditions that have survived and evolved, by people who work in unique, challenging conditions and those who live in a close bond with nature.’
His trip to rural Romania with the LUMIX G80 is a great example of Mitchell’s search for lives and places that otherwise don’t get much coverage. ‘Romania is a country of contrasts,’ he explains. ‘The majority of these result from the disparity between the nation’s rapidly developing and modernising cities and towns and the countryside, where some of the remote mountain villages are still isolated from the modern, outside world.’
As we drive north from Transylvania’s famous city of Brasov with its supermarkets, chic cafes and vibrant night life, to the region of Maramures, crumbling wooden houses, farmers ploughing the land with horses, and families riding cattle-driven carts are a common sight along the road. Mitchell: ‘The experience of travelling through these parts of Romania can be likened to going back in time. The forgotten Romanian countryside is rich in culture, traditions and spirituality. The people are closely bonded to their land, animals, the nature around them and ultimately to each other.’
With Romania joining the EU it is uncertain how long rural Romania will remain with one foot in the present and one in the past. ‘Many elderly, rural Romanians are still living much the way their ancestors did,’ Mitchell says. ‘They’re dependent on the seasons and on the supplies that they set aside for the winter. Their children are still a part of that world, but they have Facebook and Instagram accounts. They’re very aware of the rest of the world. It seems that many would prefer to leave for an easier life in the cities.’
The face of many villages is already being reshaped by the youth who come back to invest in their birthplaces with money they earned in cities or even abroad. Fewer traditional houses, more outside influences and less time for traditions and culture are indications that despite still being ‘a window into the past,’ rural Romania is on the brink of some very dramatic changes. With his intriguing images, Mitchell is capturing a world that might soon disappear.