Pig fat and the priest

23rd July 2015

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Our wagon pulls up to house and we check our watches… we have about 2 hours with the priest then off to the next location a few hours away. All we know is that he is blessed with a large glossy grey beard , great stature and has kindly agreed to let me take his portrait. He greets us and says something in Romanian to which I am nudged to respond. I fail. Apparently he said something along the lines of “Christ is alive” and I am to reply, “yes he is”. Despite my efforts I am not well rehearsed.

It’s Easter and we are lead to a large dining table filled with a beautiful display. We are treated like true guests and welcomed warmly. We are handed a glass of (I am not exaggerating) the purest red wine I have ever tasted and instructed to eat the pig fat. I kindly refuse. Alas this is not greeted with acceptance, only irritation. I explain I’m not a major fan of pig fat. Apparently this is not ordinary pig fat; in fact Marks and Sparks couldn’t come close to this. Again I politely explain I would rather have some bread and cheese. Battle commences. I eat the pig fat.

Talking to my subjects and getting to know them is a delight but often when time is pushed I am impatient and anxious. I find myself selfishly gazing romantically at the seductive light upon their face with clenched fists wishing they would agree that I could lift my lens. It’s a strange feeling of guilt and rudeness… a line so fine to tread and one that truly only a photographer can relate to. It’s not that I don’t WANT to listen to my subjects, I just can’t do both at the same time and light is precious.

We visit his beautiful Church, walls laden with vivid illustrations and lavish decor. It’s unique and feels intimate.

The priest then generously offers us gifts that echo his ethos for purity and organic living. Candles made from wax, a bottle of that epic vino and a book he signs for me. I’m a little overwhelmed.

After much patience, a few pictures for him, some furniture moving, pig fat and stories I finally lift my Hasselblad to my eyes. I wind on. I try again. CLUNK. CRRRRRRR. My baby breaks. She bails. She dies.

Puzzled I delicately pull her apart for inspection.

We recline to the table and out comes my laptop for a Skype call to Graham Playford.

This is now the third time I have called Graham from the mountains of Maramures. As always he sounds relaxed and indifferent with the faint echo of radio 4 in the background. I am yet to witness him crack with laughter or scream with surprise – such a consistent soul…. and a lovely genius at that.

Step by step instructions are directed until one of the screws he tells me to turn disintegrates into dust…FAIL

You better bring it in.