Moldova: the world of Zaharia Cusnir

ita eng
20 February 2020

A real treasure found in the ruins of a derelict house and saved by a young student and his professor: the photographs by the photographer Zaharia Cusnir who, in the second half of the 1900s, told the ex-Soviet rural world like few others

Zaharia Cusnir was the latest child in a family with 16 children from Rosietici village, Soroca district. He graduated primary school in the neighbouring village school Rogojeni, and the pedagogical high school in Iasi. From 1945 when the Soviet Union installed the border on a Prut river, he managed to work as a teacher only one year, after that he was fired and went to work in the kolkhoz: removing stones, digging the frozen ground, carrying clay, breaking the walls, and feeding cows. He learned photography from his nephew, who came from the army. His nephew was a local photographer for the village he was living in, so Zaharia became the responsible photographer for the villages around, namely Casunca, Rogojeni, Tsira, Ghindesti, Rosietici and Cenusa.

He started to take photos around the 1955. The members of his family (wife Daria and 4 children) were often reproaching him taking photos of everyone, including poor people, who cannot be an example for others, hence don’t have to be in pictures. Until 1970 he managed to capture scenes of village people’s life and left for us almost 4000 photographic negatives, medium format 6×6 cm.

In spring 2016 year, Victor Galusca a student of Film Faculty from Chisinau, came to the village for shooting his diploma film, being attracted by the multitude of abandoned and destroyed houses. Inside of Zaharia house which was without doors nor windows, Victor found the negatives left as trash. He picked all of them up with the permission of Zaharia’s daughter who lived in the village, and together with Nicolae Pojoga, his teacher of photography, they started the process of cleaning and indexing the photo collection of Zaharia Cusnir.

Within the long work of a three and a half years, there was published a book by Cartier (autumn 2017), an exhibition was held in the National Museum in Moldova (summer 2018), and 3 exhibitions were organised in Romania.

Funded by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Fellowship in 2018, now the online archive of Zaharia Cusnir has been launched . The entire project was created for the distribution and valorisation of the entire collection of Zaharia’s photos, therefore the promotors invite to use photos for different purposes, mandatory giving the credit to the author.