Transylvania: Built on Grass
Observed Portraits, third prize stories
The Borca family, from the village of Breb, put finishing touches to one of the 40 or so haystacks they make each summer.
In Transylvania and other remote areas of Romania, many people farm on a small scale, in ways unchanged for centuries. Their farms have among the lowest yields in Europe, but also some of the highest levels of self-sufficiency. Lack of money and suspicion of unfamiliar methods mean that few chemicals and artificial fertilizers are used. Farming families can expect an income of around €4,000 a year, often supplemented with earnings from other sources. Many are abandoning their farms for at least part of the year to work in cities abroad. Romania’s 2007 entry into the European Union also threatens this traditional way of life, as farmers cannot compete with European imports, and the small size of farms means they are not eligible for EU subsidies.
INSTITUTE for National Geographic magazine
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About the photographer
Rena Effendi was born in Baku, Azerbaijan, and grew up in the USSR, witnessing her country’s path to independence—one marred by war, political instability, and economic collapse. From the outset, Effendi focused her photography on issues of conflict, social justice, and the oil industry’s effect on people and the environment. From 2002 to 2008, Effendi followed a 1,700-kilometer pipeline through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey documenting the impact this multibillion-dollar project had on impoverished farmers, fishermen, and other citizens. This six-year journey became her first book Pipe Dreams: A Chronicle of Lives Along the Pipeline, published in 2009. The project received numerous awards, including a Getty Images Editorial grant, a Fifty Crows International Fund Award, a Magnum Foundation Caucasus Photographer Award, and a Mario Giacomelli Memorial Fund Award. In 2012, Effendi published her second monograph “Liquid Land”, where her images of Baku are paired with photographs of perished butterflies hunted by her father, a Soviet entomologist, who collected more than 30,000 butterflies in Soviet Union. "Liquid Land" punctuates the theme of fragility and environmental decay of her native city.
Over the past 10 years, Effendi has covered stories in the post-Soviet region, as well as in Turkey and Iran, including the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict, women victims of heroin and sex trafficking in Kyrgyzstan, and the hidden lives of youth in Tehran. In 2011, she received the Prince Claus Fund Award for Cultural Development and moved to Cairo. In 2012, Effendi was short-listed for the Prix-Pictet Global Award for Photography and Sustainability, for her series documenting life of the survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Effendi’s involvement with World Press Photo goes back to 2005, when she was a participant in the Joop Swart Masterclass. In 2012, she was a selector for, and later contributor to the organization’s Reporting Change project. In 2014 Rena Effendi won 2nd and 3rd places in Observed Portrait Stories and Observed Potrait Singles categories of the World Press Photo Contest.